Project & Resource Management

Guide: How to Best Define Project Scope

project scope

Determining a project scope is the first step to putting together your project plan and schedule. Making it as precise and accurate as it can get at the stage of project planning is essential for championing project execution. It will help you prevent scope creep, control change if need be, and make sure the project doesn’t swing in an unexpected direction. 

Below we’ve collected some actionable tips on how you can scope your project with Forecast. The Scoping section is where you plan out your project, mainly determining and documenting the list of specific goals/milestones, deliverables, tasks, deadlines, and of course, ultimately the cost of your project.

First of all, what is the scope of a project? 

Project scope is an outline of the project that consists of phases (milestones/ deliverables), tasks, estimates, and resources assigned. The purpose of a project scope is to keep stakeholders in the loop regarding what’s being planned to deliver by mapping out the project in as much detail as you can. 

Here’s an example of a simple completed project scope statement:

what is a project scope

Challenges in scoping a project

The need to define the scope of a project, however, brings along various challenges. The truth is, whenever there’s a project scope, there’s scope creep. Despite PMI’s recommendation that the scope of a project should be clear and specific from the start, our in-house research has shown that 71% of tasks are actually created after the project begins. Scope creep often begins with minor changes to the scope of a project, waiting for feedback from your client or underestimated tasks. Then, suddenly it turns into several days or weeks of extra work.

As a result, it could make the project run overtime, stretch your resources, and push other projects and clients further from their completion dates. That’s why you just have to know how to define the scope of work for a project and navigate through change.


How to define a project scope

There are a number of steps to follow if you want to create a comprehensive project scope statement. Most of them will mean going to the nitty-gritty of planning, but the results you’ll achieve will be worth it. 

1. Collect project requirements and define the scope

Start by clearly defining the Statement of Work (SOW). Make sure you understand the idea and expectations of your client. Together with your client, brainstorm the idea, define the requirements, and carefully create the SOW. You can create a work breakdown schedule by splitting the project into smaller phases (milestones) and adding tasks within a milestone. It's equally important to make sure your team understands the vision as well when moving through the implementation funnel. When you put dates to your Milestones you will be able to see a Gantt chart of the scoped project in the Timeline view of your project.

scope of a project


2. Verify the scope and get your client approval

Once you have completed scoping out your project, it will look like this on the Timeline. Now you can use the scoped out project to present it to your client. This provides both you and your clients with a visual understanding and overview of how the project will progress and what will happen if any changes are made. After you’ve discussed and verified the scope you can go back to the Scoping page and approve the tasks.

3. Set a baseline 

A baseline is needed to make sure you have the right numbers to measure your project progress against and seal the deal with your client. Specify how many hours you’re about to sell for each role to tally up the price for different project phases and the project in total. A baseline plan carries numerous benefits for both fixed price and Time & Material projects. Mainly, it will facilitate the communication between you and stakeholders in the future and prevent scope creep. 

baseline in scoping a project

Learn how to set a project baseline in our ultimate guide here.

4. Monitor the scope and control change

Giving your client a view into your process by inviting them to Forecast can be a great way of ensuring a more collaborative and transparent workflow. Forecast allows you only to give the access you find appropriate, whether that is a limited view as a Client or the perspective of a team member as a Collaborator. In the case, that new requests may pop up along the way, make sure to explain to your clients the process of adding new tasks to the project.

You can create a Workflow, a Kanban board in other words, that allows your client to submit tasks requests.

defining a project scope

The baseline set up earlier will illustrate if any change requests are appropriate or you should negotiate the price moving forward. 

5. Calculate the price of completing extra work

You can always refer back to the initial SOW whenever your client is suggesting new features or some changes. If a task is initially deemed out of scope and thereby disapproved, you can easily create a new extended proposal in just a few seconds. Through the rate cards, roles, and time estimations linked to the project and new task(s), you will instantly be able to see the price of completing the extra work.

This is a great way to do extended sales proposals based on single tasks or a group of new requests submitted by your client. If the project is accepted, you can quickly move the tasks along, either directly to the to-do column for immediate implementation, or to an upcoming milestone or sprint, simply by ticking the Approved box.

Following the 4 steps above should significantly improve your stakes of dealing with scope creep. No matter, if you're eagerly taking on extra work, or instead prefer moving further requirements and requests to a separate project - these steps can hopefully help you out. For better project experiences when scoping out your project, sign up for a free trial of Forecast today: 

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