While budget constraints get a lot of attention from leaders, scope management is actually the most difficult aspect of project management and the key to avoiding project overruns. Key stakeholders are often asking for competing focuses, and there’s only so much approved time and money. Managing the project scope is critical to help deliver a project on budget, on time, and on the mark.
This article is intended to help “accidental” project managers and/or new project managers write a project scope statement for small businesses. The information shared here is grounded in research from Gartner but we’ve adapted it to suit your small business. (Gartner’s full Tools for Project Scoping report available to Gartner clients only)
A project scope statement is the written objective of a single project that serves the purpose of stating the scope definition, the project goal and/or objective, resource limitations, and any other constraints that are applicable.
The scope document will answer questions such as what the goal or high-level business objective is and what specific business issue/requirement this project will fulfill.
A project scope statement is often included in the larger project plan or project charter that includes the requirements, timeline, and budget. It can vary in format and length depending on the complexity of the project at hand.
Now that we’ve defined the project scope statement, let’s get into how to write one.
To get you started on writing the scope statement, we’ve gathered some questions to ask key stakeholders. The answer to each of these questions should be evaluated for reasonableness and thoroughness.
The answers to these questions can then be compiled into one document which then serves as the project scope statement. The exact format you use is up to you; just be sure it can be shared with all stakeholders.
You may have additional questions to ask depending on your specific project or business, such as compliance regulations or reliance on a consulting firm.
Let’s use an example to flesh this one out. Say a business wants to move all software into the cloud. This involves moving all of its IT infrastructure from servers that they’ve been maintaining themselves in a backroom to all of their software being hosted online. The backroom will then be converted into a new mothers’ wellness room.
This effort would typically be broken up into two projects: an IT-focused one and a construction-focused one. For each project to be successful, both teams need to know exactly what tasks the other will be taking on.
So the IT project scope statement would include that this project will:
Select new cloud-hosted software vendors
Implement new cloud-based software
Move all data from old systems to new ones
Decommission onsite servers
But this IT project will NOT:
Remove the servers from the backroom. This effort is in scope for the construction project.
When the project managers for each project know the scope of both projects, you can avoid hold-ups and miscommunications during the handoff between the two efforts. You wouldn’t want the construction team waiting around to get started just because there is confusion as to who is removing the physical servers.
Every project should have a project scope statement completed prior to work beginning. The benefits that the creation of and continued reference to the document yield can be seen regardless of the type or complexity of the project.
Some of these benefits are:
Avoid scope creep with the scope management plan
Perform informed change management
Gain stakeholder agreement with clear project justification
Reduce confusion in the project team
Use as basis for creating the work breakdown structure (WBS) later in the project
Not only will you see the above benefits from a project scope statement, but also the process of writing the scope statement will provide opportunities for your own professional growth. Here are some of the benefits you, as the project manager, will see while creating the scope:
Gain deeper insight into business problems
Understand how different stakeholders’ needs differ
Network and build business partner relationships
Now that you’ve written a stellar project scope, you need a way to effectively track and manage the work to be done. Project management software can support your scope management plan with collaboration, document management, and reporting features. Here are a few suggestions for what to do next to help you find the best solution for you:
Read user reviews on project management tools and use the filtering options on the side to narrow down the results
Tell us your budget and main feature requirements, and our GetApp App Finder will show you the best products for your needs
Check out our Project Management Software Category Leaders report to see which products are the most popular and why
Learn more about more features and benefits of project management software in our buyers guide