How to write a project scope statement

How to write a project scope statement marquee

When beginning a project, most team members have a general idea of their expectations and responsibilities. However, more companies are finding that adding a formal approach to their project management can help set them up for more efficiency and success.

Many projects can fail because they don’t have clearly defined objectives and milestones. Assuming team members understand what they should be doing to move a project forward isn’t an acceptable approach for organizations looking to remain profitable and proactive.

Thankfully, project management strategies can be implemented seamlessly to reduce inefficiencies. This starts with creating a clear project scope statement. Without the boundaries and expectations set forth in a scope or statement of work (SOW) document, many projects can easily balloon beyond the original goal or drift off course.

Project scope statements allow businesses and team members to clearly define the purpose and deliverables of a project, perhaps most importantly defining what is — and what is not — part of the plan. This allows everyone to get on the same page when it comes to fulfilling their responsibilities in a transparent and timely manner.

Learning to write a project scope statement will help you more effectively manage your projects and alleviate scope creep. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to craft and implement a project scope. Specifically, we’ll cover:

What is a project scope statement?

A project scope statement is a clear definition of the boundaries of a project. It includes all the assumptions, responsibilities, requirements, constraints, milestones, and deliverables needed to ensure the project is a success. Project scope statements, also known as statements of work, are used by project managers and upper management to plan for and determine a project’s overall progress and execution.

These documents become a map that the entire team can use to navigate toward a desired outcome. They set the stage for the project by defining all the output required and the dates each component should be completed by. From there, stakeholders can create project scope management plans and assign responsibilities to the appropriate resources to carry out the work on schedule and on budget.

Project scope statements are just one component of thorough project management. These often also include communication plans, task schedules, detailed budgets, and risk assessments. A complete project plan starts with a statement of work that defines the goals and components of the project and serves as a control for the rest of the initiative.

The importance of project scope statements

Project scope statements provide clear and immediate value to managers and stakeholders by eliminating the guesswork that can come with project management. Rather than wondering about tasks, everyone involved can work from clearly defined requirements and deadlines tied to direct outcomes.

A project scope statement is a clear definition of the boundaries of a project. It includes all the assumptions, responsibilities, requirements, constraints, milestones, and deliverables needed to ensure the project is a success.

The benefits of stating what the project scope is don’t stop with definitions. Rather, project managers, stakeholders, clients, and team members can benefit from a thoughtfully crafted SOW in a number of ways.

Creating a project scope statement

Now that you understand how a project scope statement helps avoid pitfalls and misunderstandings, you may want to create one for yourself. Even if you’ve never made a project scope statement before, there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed. These documents can be easy to put together once the key elements to include are defined.

Of course, no two projects are the same, so project managers should expect there to be variations in what might be applicable when getting started. Keep in mind these documents are designed to clearly define deliverables and expectations in a way that’s both actionable and achievable. When crafting a project scope statement, consider the following:

1. Overview — providing a synopsis

Starting with a summary of the project can help everyone understand what is needed from them and what is expected in the end. This can also be a great opportunity to list objectives for smaller milestones leading to broader goals in clearly actionable ways.

Project needs are often itemized here to outline what should be included and what should be left out. Project managers can use this section to define the objectives and goals and create a clear, one-sentence statement of what the initiative is all about.

Let’s take the example of a company working on a website redesign for an ecommerce client. A sample project scope statement could be “The redesigned website will provide customers with faster and easier access to products while offering value-added content to increase session duration and reduce bounce rate.”

From here, the project’s detailed objectives could include the following:

2. Governance — attributing responsibility

With the general concept established, stakeholders and individual contributors can be assigned to specific roles. This step helps detail who will be working on the project and who will be responsible for review and approval of various deliverables.

Consider each objective outlined in the overview. The project manager should indicate who is involved with or accountable for each at a high level. Let’s use our previous example of the website redesign:

A graph shows an example of the responsibilities of redesigning a website.

3. Approach — outlining steps

For everyone to contribute to the plan effectively, they’ll need to know their exact responsibilities and tasks and how they matter in the bigger picture. Reiterate the project scope statement and then outline what is and is not included in the scope. It can be helpful to redefine the measures of success to align tasks as within or outside the scope itself.

In the case of the website redesign project, the approach could include reminders for the creative team that the project should use existing brand guidelines and they should confine their efforts to working within those boundaries. While a new website is in scope, a rebrand is not.

Another point of clarification could be around the measures for success. The project manager could define that while improving traffic figures is crucial, increasing the total number of sales for the client is not part of this project’s requirements.

4. Assumptions — expected risks and rewards

Every good project manager knows projects are bound to encounter obstacles. To help alleviate challenges, incorporate predictions of what is likely to sidetrack progress and make recommendations for what can be done to avoid these issues.

These considerations could range from allocating the right resources to the project so no one is shorthanded to reviewing PTO requests to ensure coverage at all times. Risk factors could include anything from personnel availability to the budget set forth by a client. To prevent conflict before it happens, be sure to indicate any risks to the team and to external clients.

5. Deliverables — defining success

Clearly defining the deliverables can help reiterate the overall definition of project success. Go back to the original project scope statement and evaluate exactly what can be used to prove a job well done in an objective and measurable way.

For our example, the project manager could tackle this from a few angles. When it comes to key performance indicators (KPIs), they can work with the client to measure session duration and bounce rate baselines to determine what improvements will define success over a set period of time after the new website is launched. They can also work with the internal team to define parameters for what a thorough, on-brand redesign includes and just how different the website should look in the end.

Scope statement example

Let’s apply this format to our example and create a project scope statement of our own.

A graph shows an example of a project scope statement.

Best practices for writing scope statements

While every scope statement will look different, there are some best practices that project managers can follow to ensure their documents are as effective as possible.

Project scope statements vs. other documents

As vital as a statement of work can be to the project management process, it’s just one of many documents managers and stakeholders rely on. Here are some other project management documents that can help the process.

Creating your own scope statements

Scope statements are a critical component of project management that can help keep work on track and within budget. While they can take a bit of time to create upfront, they are well worth it because they set important boundaries with clients and internal stakeholders to ensure that requirements and inclusions (or exclusions) are clear.

When you’re ready to get started writing a scope statement, it can help to consider the whats and whys of project management — what the project is, why it’s happening, why it’s important, and what it will achieve. This will provide a good starting point to create the rest of the scope statement. When you’re ready for the how of project management, Adobe can help.

Adobe Workfront is enterprise work management software that connects work to strategy and drives better collaboration to deliver measurable business outcomes. Workfront helps you define goals, automate workflows, and manage assets to give you a centralized platform to manage your projects.

Watch the overview video or take a product tour to find out how Workfront can help you manage the scope of your projects.