Project scope management: Plan, template, and guide

Asana 團隊撰稿人圖片Team Asana
February 20th, 2024
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Summary

Managing the scope of a project is like driving a car. If you don’t keep your eyes in front of you, the car veers off the road. Similarly, if you don’t control your project scope, the project gets off track. A scope management plan outlines the processes involved in executing your project and serves as a guideline to keep the project within specific limits. 

As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to guide your team through the project life cycle. In this article, we’ll explain what a scope management plan is and how it can assist you in the planning phase. Once you understand the scope management process, your plan will set you and your team up for success.

What is project scope management?

Project scope management refers to the process of defining and controlling what is included and what is not included in a project. It's about understanding the project goals, milestones, tasks, deadlines, outputs, and costs and ensuring everything is aligned to meet the objectives of the project. A well-defined scope management plan is essential for successful project execution, as it helps prevent scope creep, makes sure resources are used efficiently, and keeps the project on track.

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Phases of project scope management

Effective project scope management involves several key steps: initiating, planning, defining, verifying, and controlling the project scope. By adhering to these steps, project managers can create a detailed project scope management plan that outlines how the scope will be defined, validated, and controlled throughout the project lifecycle. 

This plan is a roadmap for stakeholders to understand the boundaries of the project and helps keep everyone on the same page from start to finish.

Initiation

The initiation phase sets the groundwork by identifying the part of the project that needs focus and the primary objectives. During this phase, you engage key stakeholders, assess project feasibility, and develop a clear statement of work or project charter. The initiation phase creates a solid foundation for all subsequent project activities.

Planning

During the planning stage, the project team collaborates to develop a comprehensive approach that outlines the project timeline, scope baseline, and project budget. This is where the scope definition becomes crucial; it's the process of breaking down the project into manageable tasks and subtasks, which makes it easier for the team to deliver on expectations.

Defining

In the defining stage, you create precise documentation of the project's exclusions, clarifying what is outside the project's scope to prevent misunderstandings and scope creep. This documentation provides a clear reference for what the project will deliver, so all project stakeholders and team members have a cohesive understanding of the project objectives.

Verification

Verification involves regular reviews with project stakeholders to confirm that the project remains aligned with the scope baseline and to make adjustments as necessary. Verification is vital for managing changes and avoiding scope creep, which can derail project success.

Controlling the project scope

Finally, controlling the project scope requires continuous monitoring and management of the project's progress against the original plan. This entails keeping tabs on the project team's performance, controlling the project budget, managing cost overruns, and making sure all stakeholders are aware of and agree upon any changes to the project timeline.

Read: Project schedules 101: Why you need them and how to make your own

Importance of project scope management

Understanding the importance of scope management is pivotal for avoiding project pitfalls like delays, budget overruns, and stakeholder dissatisfaction. A well-crafted project scope management plan acts as a blueprint that guides every decision and action throughout each part of the project.

For example, consider a project to develop new customer service software. When a stakeholder suggests a feature not originally included in the scope, the project manager can refer to the project scope management plan to firmly explain why the new feature cannot be accommodated. This decisive stance ensures the project remains focused and on track.

Read: 7 important steps of the decision-making process

What is the purpose of a scope management plan?

The purpose of a scope management plan is to create project structure by documenting the resources required to achieve the project objectives. Your scope management plan will also reduce the chance of scope creep. 

A scope management process helps you avoid common problems, including: 

  • Constantly changing requirements

  • Overspending

  • Wasted time

  • Failure to meet deadlines

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What is project scope?

Your project scope sets the boundaries for your project and defines the project goals, deadlines, and deliverables. When you clarify your project scope, you’re structuring your project around what your team will and won’t do and providing goals and objectives for them to work toward.  

The entire team should be involved in defining the project scope. This means communicating with key stakeholders and writing up a project scope statement that outlines requirements of the project. For example, if you’re defining a scope for a new advertising campaign, you’ll want to ensure the design team, the content team, and the digital marketing team all agree on the details in the scope statement. 

What is scope creep?

Scope creep occurs when your project exceeds your initial scope statement. For example, scope creep may occur if a stakeholder adds an additional project deliverable after the project has begun. 

What is scope creep?

Unexpected project changes can lead to increased project risks like missed timelines, increased budgets, overwork, or a low-quality end product. There are various reasons why scope creep can occur. Some reasons include:

  • Unclear project scope

  • Unrealistic project objectives

  • Too many stakeholders

  • Poor scope management

  • Poor communication with stakeholders

To avoid scope creep, you need to plan against it, which is where a strong scope management plan comes into play.

How to create a project scope management plan

The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) offers a standard, six step project scope management process. These six steps help you create a solid scope management plan to keep your project on track.

The 6 steps of scope management

1. Create your scope plan

The first step in the planning process involves creating your scope plan document. This document should include your scope statement, a breakdown of project requirements, and any expected deliverables for the project. 

Your scope plan document may also include a change control process, which is a process for change requests that can prevent scope creep. This is a document you can refer to in later stages of project planning. You may need this document for complex projects, projects where you think stakeholders will want many deliverables, or when there’s a lot of flux in what your deliverables might be. 

Tips for creating a scope plan: 

  • Incorporate expert judgment: To create your scope planning document, you need to consider all parts of the organizational process. Check in with cross-functional and executive stakeholders to ensure you have all of the information you need.

Hold scope kickoff meetings: Before you lock your scope document, make sure you have buy-in from all stakeholders. Share your scope plan document asynchronously, or host a kickoff meeting so that other managers and team members involved in the project can contribute to the initial scope statement.

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2. Collect project requirements

In this step of the process, you’ll identify stakeholders’ needs so you can meet project objectives. Your goal should be to gather an in-depth list of requirements from stakeholders so that you can prevent scope changes down the line. 

Tips for collecting project requirements: 

  • Create a project charter: Create a project charter, or an elevator pitch, so stakeholders can clearly understand the project and ensure their expectations match the project's objectives. 

  • Hold focus groups or workshops: Hold focus groups or workshops to give stakeholders a better understanding of your project. Communicating your project objectives to stakeholders is essential if you want them to buy into your project scope.

  • Develop prototypes: Develop a prototype of your project deliverable before presenting your project to stakeholders. This way, stakeholders can visualize the end product, voice their concerns, or list additional requirements early on.

3. Define scope

Once you’ve collected requirements from stakeholders, turn that information into a well-defined scope and a detailed product description. This document clarifies the expectations and deliverables for the project so that all team members know what they must accomplish.

Tips for defining scope: 

  • Try product analysis: Before you can define your scope and write a detailed product description, you need to do an in-depth product analysis. Analyze the product you plan to create from the eyes of the customer or client in order to determine whether it will meet their expectations. 

  • Generate alternatives: You’ll also want to generate alternatives in case your project encounters risks. For example, how will you meet stakeholder needs if you’re planning a new product launch and your launch date gets delayed?

  • Facilitate workshops: Host brainstorming workshops to clarify the scope of the project and to encourage collaboration among team members. 

4. Create a work breakdown structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a way to divide your project into levels of tasks. When you create a WBS, your team can clearly visualize each component of the project and assess what needs to be done. 

Levels of a work breakdown structure

A work breakdown structure creates a hierarchical structure of tasks. From there, you can schedule, monitor, and control your project.

Tips for creating a WBS: 

  • Decompose your project objective: A WBS decomposes, or breaks down, your project objective into dependencies and sub-dependencies. These smaller groups of tasks are often referred to as work packages. Once you break your tasks down, you have clear insight into everything your project needs, including the hours, equipment, tools, and expenses.

  • Automate workflows: Automating team member workflows can streamline coordination on projects and enhance project visibility. Using software to automate these workflows will also reduce manual information-gathering and duplicative work.

5. Validate scope

Validating your scope simply means getting sign-off from all stakeholders involved in the project. Make sure stakeholders clearly understand your project deliverables to avoid future scope creep. If possible, get feedback or advice on any changes and improvements. 

Tips to validate scope: 

  • Inspect your plan: Because validation is the final sign-off for your scope management plan, you’ll want to review and inspect it thoroughly. Team members can help you inspect the plan before sending it off to stakeholders, but stakeholders should also participate in a final inspection so that the plan gets as many eyes on it as possible.

6. Control scope

The last step in your scope management plan is scope control. As your project continues into the execution phase, monitor the status of the project and manage changes to the scope. The best way to streamline scope control is to use project management software. These tools can share feedback, files, and status updates on your project, so you’re aware of any scope changes in real time.

Tips to control scope: 

  • Analyze variance: In this part of the scope management plan, assess how much variance in scope occurs. Analyzing the actual performance of your scope versus the planned performance will give you insight for future projects.

  • Refer to change control document: You created a change control process earlier in the planning phase. Remember to refer to this document so you can track the flow of information when it comes to project changes.

Read: How to write a project scope in 8 easy steps

Tips for effective project scope management

Effective project scope management is crucial for the success of any project. It combines strategic planning and work management techniques to ensure that objectives are met efficiently. 

Here are several tips to guide you in keeping your project on the right path from start to finish:

  • Clearly define the product and project scope. Begin with a precise definition of both the product scope—detailing the features and functions of the product or service being developed—and the project scope, which includes the work required to deliver the product. A clear distinction between these scopes helps prevent misunderstandings and scope creep.

  • Engage stakeholders early. Involve key project stakeholders early in the planning process. Their input can help refine the project scope and ensure it aligns with business objectives and stakeholder expectations.

  • Develop a detailed scope management plan. Create a comprehensive scope management plan that outlines how scope changes will be identified, evaluated, and implemented or rejected. This plan is your roadmap for navigating scope challenges.

  • Implement change control processes. Establish formal change control processes to manage requests for changes to the project scope efficiently. These processes help assess the impact of changes on the project timeline, budget, and resources.

  • Document everything. Keep detailed records of all project meetings, decisions, and changes related to the project scope. Documentation provides a clear reference point for all project participants and can be invaluable for resolving disputes and informing future projects.

Incorporating these tips into your project management practices can lead to more successful outcomes. Effective scope management is about balancing the detailed planning of product features and project work with the flexibility to adapt to changes.

Simplify your scope management with project management tools

A project scope management plan creates a clear structure for your team to follow during project execution. Scope management planning is easier if you use an online tool because you can share your plan with stakeholders, automate internal workflows, and easily break down project objectives into tasks. With project management software, you can streamline your processes and feel better prepared for what lies ahead.

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