We’ve all been part of a project that exceeded initial time or budget expectations, due to hitting little bumps in the road. And we know how frustrating it is to keep up with shifting expectations when you’re responsible for the final product.
One of the best ways to cut out this frustration is with a detailed project scope. Learn what one is and how to write a project scope to set boundaries before you begin, so your plans stay on track.
Table of Contents
- What is a project scope?
- How to write a project scope.
- Project scope example.
- Frequently asked questions.
What is a project scope?
A project scope details exactly what will be delivered at the end of a project. It sets out the parameters of the work to be done.
The purpose of the project scope is to get your stakeholders and team on the same page. This provides a concise summary, where everyone can refer back to your:
Throughout the project, you’ll practise scope management, which begins by writing a thorough project scope document. Laying out these elements in plain language helps align everyone’s expectations and prevents you from overcommitting your resources.
How to write a project scope.
Writing a scope of project doesn’t need to be a long or complex process. Using a project scope template can make the process quicker and easier. It will help you create a detailed project scope so your team can track its progress, manage work, and put it together in a simple, useful way.
Follow the steps below to learn how to write the scope of a project:
Step 1: Collect crucial project information.
Writing a project scope begins with collecting information. Project requirements and necessary information comes from many different places and sources, such as your:
- Project sponsors
- Experience on other projects
Start with the overall aim of the project, then work from there to begin compiling all the crucial details that will need to be outlined throughout your document.
Step 2: Define project deliverables.
- Marketing campaign
Deliverables should be agreed upon and approved by all involved stakeholders. This presents a unified vision of the project and gives you something substantial to measure your final product against.
Think about your deliverables as your finish line, big picture goals that guide your schedule, budget, and resource allocation.
Pro tip: When you dig into your deliverables and start to look at work packages assigned to individuals, that’s a sign you’re moving into a different document – your work breakdown structure.
Step 3: Assess available resources.
Laying out your project’s resources as part of your project scope helps you see exactly how you will complete your deliverables. Ongoing resource management requires visibility into team members, budget, and capacity.
When you examine who is available to work on your project, remember that their time may be partially allocated elsewhere, as workers are often assigned to multiple projects at once. Don’t assume a team member is at 100% capacity for you. Be sure to check with other managers about how they’re allocating overlapping resources to their projects.
Alongside allocating team members to certain work, articulate resources like specific software, which will impact how the project is carried out.
Step 4: Identify inclusions and exclusions.
After agreeing deliverables and resources, turn your attention to establishing expectations for how much work will go into the deliverables. If this sounds like an unnecessary level of detail, consider the varying expectations that can come with a project, like creating a website.
Such a deliverable may sound simple enough, but ask yourself:
- Will the launch include user testing?
- How much market and competition research are you expected to perform?
- How many design iterations will you create for your stakeholders to choose from?
Stakeholders need to know what you will create and how. Otherwise, unclear expectations can lead to much dreaded scope creep, derail your budget and deadlines, and expand a project to the point of unsustainability.
It’s important to list what will and will not be included in the project to avoid misunderstandings based on assumptions. Remember, you can always leave room to agree on how you will handle change orders. Just be sure to weigh any changes against how it might affect other project constraints.
Step 5: Consider project constraints.
There is a standard set of project constraints. Regardless of how many constraints your project has, changing just one can impact the rest.
Balancing all project constraints together is a crucial project management skill, as is laying out all constraints within your project scope. Project managers should clarify the limitations or parameters of the project so stakeholders and team members are fully aware of what may impact a project’s time and budget.
Listing project constraints in your scope can also reinforce your list of exclusions. For example, you might list that you’re not including animations in a video project due to budget constraints, or that you’re excluding any more than two rounds of revisions due to time constraints.
You don’t yet need to list a detailed project timeline at this point, because you will be creating a project schedule next. But if there are time constraints beyond normal protocol, it’s important your team know up front to plan around them.
Step 6: Build out a project schedule.
Once you’ve collected information about the project itself, determine how the project will progress toward its final deadlines. Start with your list of deliverables and drill down from there.
Major tasks and milestones are a great place to start. They’re one level of detail below your deliverables and are big team tasks – not individual pieces of work – that lead to completion of deliverables.
When it comes to determining how long each major task will take, let quality be your guide. Don’t just schedule tasks to completion, but rather to be completed with the kind of quality your scope has promised.
Individual team members should use this schedule to plan their own timelines around major deadlines. Be as thorough as possible and include all the tasks your team will be accountable for.
It’s also helpful to break up projects with an especially long timeline or multiple launch dates into phases to help your team with planning. This isn’t mandatory, but it can give a sense of accomplishment along the way and help with organization.
Pro tip: Always build in some buffer periods for each task whenever you can for greater flexibility around your schedule.
Explore our best practices for scope management for more information about how to make sure scope creep doesn't take over your next project.
Step 7: Tailor the scope to your project and organization.
Projects, stakeholders, teams, and organizations are unique, so there might be information you want included in your project scope not covered here. For example:
- You might consider how your scope reflects your organization’s preferred methodologies.
- Stating the purpose of your project might prove helpful.
- Your stakeholders may have a set of acceptance criteria they want met before the project can be completed.
If there’s something important you feel needs adding, make sure its inclusion helps your document achieve its purpose. It should encompass the entire scope of the project, to ensure time and resources aren’t spent on unimportant additions.
Step 8: Compile and review.
Now you’ve done the legwork, it’s time to understand how to write your project scope. The project scope should be concise and easy to read.
While it can be tempting to create an all-inclusive project scope, save the thorough write-out for your project plan.
A project scope doesn’t need every conceivable piece of project information. A good rule of thumb is to keep your scope to one or two paragraphs.
Ask yourself the following questions to help review and finalize your scope:
- Is it clear why this project is necessary and important?
- Do I know exactly who the project stakeholders are?
- Will my stakeholders see a value and benefit in the project?
Consider variables that will affect your team:
- Are resources adequate to complete this project?
- Are timelines realistic for the deliverables?
- Does my team have access to the necessary resources?
Finally, think about what additional work may impact the project:
- Is the list of inclusions and exclusions specific enough?
- Is there too much room for tasks to be added after the project has kicked off?
- Is there any project task or constraint I haven’t considered yet?
Step 9: Put your project scope to work.
Your project scope serves as a basic agreement with stakeholders and forms the foundation for several other crucial documents, including your:
You’ll refer to your scope throughout the duration of your project, serving as a guide when making decisions or changes. This makes it a great tool for standing firm when people want to make changes that will require time or money you don’t have.
Project scope example.
To help you get a greater understanding of what a project scope is and what yours should include, this basic example for a content marketing plan can help.
- Introduction – [You/your company] is carrying out this content marketing project for [client]. The aim is to create monthly blog posts for the website to improve customer engagement.
- Project scope description – The project will cover research, strategy, writing, reviewing, publishing and sharing the blog post on social media. X from [your company] will be responsible for all activities.
- Project deliverables – The deliverables for the project are:
- One 1,000-word blog post each month (including three images)
- Delivered by the 30th or last working Friday of each month
- Sent via email to [client email]
- Project acceptance criteria – [Client] will review the blog post against tone of voice and brand guidelines before approval for publishing.
- Project exclusions – This project does not include payment to external parties for research, writing or other outsourced services.
- Project constraints – Unforeseen delays in communication, changes in scope, time and resources could affect the project.
This is only a simple example of a project scope. It will need reviewing and approving by all parties, so changes may be built in. When approved and the project starts, everyone should refer back to it to avoid scope creep, where people are doing additional or unauthorized work.
A thorough and specific project scope gives you the big picture grasp you need to create and shape a project. Done right, a good scope will ultimately make it easier to plan, manage, and successfully execute your project.
Frequently asked questions.
What is the definition of project scope?
Project scope sets out the remit of a project. It can cover:
This is important, as without a clearly-defined scope, projects can drift off course. A project scope helps keep project staff and stakeholders on the same page from the early stages of a project and prevent scope creep.
What is project scope management?
Project scope management is the practise of defining, documenting and controlling the scope of your project before and during a project. This could include writing scope documents and work breakdown structures, as well as monitoring your project to keep it in scope.
What’s the difference between project scope and objectives?
Project objectives refer mainly to the predetermined goals of a project. Scope, on the other hand, is broader – detailing the how. It can incorporate anything from resources and budget to constraints and project exclusions.