Scope Management
All about Scope Management

Scope Management: The Secret to Successful Project Delivery

Ready to start working on your project? Hold on… first we need to define the project scope. The scope of the project is all the work required to achieve the deliverables. Project leaders plan scope management during project initiation so everyone is clear on what needs to be done.

Managing scope also includes managing the inevitable changes while still balancing the need to complete the work on time and on budget.

Common tools for scoping projects include the work breakdown structure, change control procedure and the scope statement. We have a range of expert interviews covering all kinds of project scoping topics, so you’ll be sure to find something here to expand your knowledge and learn some practical tips!

Scope Management: The Secret to Project Success

Listen now to this featured podcast on Scope Management.

In this featured podcast you learn about how project scope management will make or break your project.

Disruptive business models, technological progress and intense competition force your customers to continuously innovate. Clients naturally demand that you deliver high-quality projects involving complex, ever-changing scope at tight budgets and within compressed timelines. Is this challenging? Absolutely! Innovative, effective scope management is a must for project success. Listen in as we discuss the successful project scoping techniques from around the world.

Learn how ineffective requirements gathering, poor scope definition, gold plating, and uncontrolled creep inevitably lead to project failure. And to counteract this, we analyze, adapt, and apply seven proven techniques to increase the probability of project success.

Karthik Ramamurthy
Karthik Ramamurthy
Please scroll down to see the full list of our Project Scope Management podcasts.

What is Project Scope?

A project's scope is the total of the work required to achieve the project’s objectives. Scope is often documented in a work breakdown structure (WBS) which records all the deliverables needed to say the project has completed successfully.

What is Project Scope Management?

Project scope management is the practice of ensuring you know what the project is going to deliver – and, crucially, getting agreement on that. The three process groups of scope management are:
  • Planning
  • Controlling
  • Closing
Together, these process groups combine to give you a structured way to control scope, especially when things change on the project. Let's look at each of those process groups in a bit more detail now.


During the planning stage, the team plans how to approach managing the scope. Requirements are elicited, remembering that needs are different from solutions. The project scope statement is created. This defines everything that is going to be delivered as part of the project. The team creates a work breakdown structure.


Scope creep in project management needs to be controlled! The monitoring and controlling processes allow you to validate scope, accept deliverables, manage changes and track the work. Whenever something changes on the project, it is documented and approved/rejected.


At the end of the project, the delivered scope is audited against the original plan, called the scope baseline, to see how the project has performed.

Product Scope vs Project Scope

Product scope defines what the customer wants from the product. Project scope refers to the boundary for the project work.

Product scope could be a wide-ranging selection of improvements that could take many years to deliver and are probably part of a product roadmap.

An example of product scope would be: “A new product to sell digital services to existing and new clients via online consultations.” This scope is managed by a product manager who will guide the product's development direction as well as taking into account business strategy.

The project scope includes all the work required to deliver the new product. The scope of a project in this example would be: hiring a graphic designer to create a website for the new product, building the website, training staff on the new internal processes, providing supporting marketing materials to promote the website, setting up payment processors, creating a process and email sequence to support customers who have purchased, creating help documents for customers and so on. They are all examples of what needs to happen to deliver the new product.

In other words, your project scope statement defines what work is required to deliver the product scope.

Why is scope management essential for project managers?

Scope management is essential for project managers because it is the process that helps you control what work is to be done. It's important because staying in control of scope helps you save time later. When everyone understands what the project is doing, you avoid miscommunication and that helps prevent unnecessary change requests and conflict later on.

Even when you invest time and energy into confirming the scope, you'll still find that it changes as the project progresses, and that’s to be expected. As you learn more about what it is you are delivering, stakeholders and the project sponsor may update or change their ideas about what they want. A robust approach to managing scope helps make sure everyone's views are heard early enough for their ideas to make it into the scope document, so you can focus on the significant change requests.

The scope management process lets you adapt to those changes in a controlled way so you always have a clear view of what the project is delivering.

How to Properly Scope a Project

There are 5 steps to properly scope a project.
  1. Understand the goal
  2. Clarify what is included
  3. Clarify what is excluded
  4. Document scope
  5. Prepare for changes
Now we've given you the headlines, let’s look at those steps in more detail. This straightforward process is how project scope is defined, and you can adapt it to suit the project management methodology in use in your organization.

1. Understand the goal

You must understand the project’s goals and objectives so you can scope the work to include everything required. Identify the success criteria so you know what you are aiming for.

2. Clarify what’s included

Make sure you have clear, prioritized requirements from key stakeholders. This forms your list of items that are in the project scope.

3. Clarify what’s excluded

Identify what is specifically excluded from this project. That could include deploying the solution to certain locations, some requirements, teams or system integrations that will not be done during this project.

4. Document scope

Record everything you have discovered to create the project scope statement. Get the document agreed by all relevant stakeholders.

5. Prepare for changes

Scope changes, so make sure stakeholders are aware of the process to suggest and approve/reject changes.

Scope Management Techniques

Scope management techniques are what you use as a team to make sure you’ve got a full understanding of the work involved to complete the project. They help you control what makes it into project scope and what’s rejected or postponed for another day. Here are some common scope management techniques.
  • Meetings
  • Expert judgement
  • Interviews
  • Workshops
  • Focus groups
  • Questionnaires and surveys
  • Observation.

How To Use Scope Management Techniques

  • Meetings
    Meetings can be between you and one other person or where you come together in a large group. Typically you will have an agenda of discussion items. Talk about the scope of the project, make decisions and record the points made in the meeting as that will help you define scope.
  • Expert judgement
    Expert judgement simply means relying on subject matter experts to tell you what is needed for the project. For example, if the architect tells you a feature is required, it goes into the scope.
  • Interviews
    You can use an interview format discussion to ask questions and get targeted answers, either from business colleagues or your customer population.
  • Workshops
    Workshops are useful when you need to get a group together for a facilitated discussion or working session. The things you uncover or agree in the workshop then become part of your scope.
  • Focus groups
    Bring end users or customers together in a focus group and get their feedback about what should be included in the project. If you have a demo, wireframes or a prototype, you can share it and see what the response is.
  • Questionnaires and surveys
    Written responses to structured questions can be useful, especially if you need to get a wide range of responses and have to consult a large group. Gather feedback with a well-designed survey and use that as an input to scope.
  • Observation
    Observation means watching how people do a task and using that information to inform what you build. For example, you might uncover multiple process steps that could be eliminated.

All that sounds easy enough, at least in theory! However, in practice, managing scope is a challenging exercise. Often, high-level project goals are not clearly defined. Customers and key stakeholders don’t have the time to participate in requirements elicitation or show up for scope meetings. They simply want the work to start. Many stakeholders expect to be able to influence the development of the project as the work unfolds, but sometimes it’s too late to make changes at that point, or changes are very expensive. There’s also rework to consider and the waste of the team’s time for redoing tasks that could have been done right the first time.

Customers themselves can sometimes struggle with the process too, even if they are prepared to make time for it. You ask them what is important and they say everything is important! They find it difficult to prioritize requirements. They might be very clear on design or look and feel, but find it harder to talk conclusively about functionality and what they want the thing to do.

You may also receive a challenge from subject matter experts who don’t see the need to write scope down. If they know what they have to do, what’s the point in wasting time documenting it? The act of discussion and documentation provides clarity and helps validate and uncover assumptions.

Project scope management is an important contributing factor to project success, so it’s essential we meet the challenges head on. We can have difficult conversations with stakeholders and experts, and our projects will be better because of our focus on scope.

Scope Management Documentation

Once you’ve elicited requirements and have a good idea about what you stakeholders want, it’s time to document their needs. Prepare your scope management plan and scope statement.

The scope management plan

The scope management plan is part of the project management plan. It describes how the project team will define, monitor, control and validate scope. The document is a good starting point for setting up your project for success.

Elements of a scope management plan

  • How you will prepare a project scope statement
  • What steps you will go through to create the work breakdown structure (or WBS)
  • How you will establish and finalize the scope baseline, and how that will be maintained during the project
  • What steps you will go through to gain approval for the completed project deliverables.

You may have a separate document as your scope management plan, or it could be part of another document. It could be formal or informal, detailed or high-level, and needs to be tailored to your project, organizational culture and expectations.

The scope statement

The scope statement is a definition of what the project is going to deliver and also what it is not going to deliver. It is a list of things that are included in the project scope. Once you have a scope management plan, a good next step is to work towards getting a clear and concise statement of scope.

The scope statement is great for confirming that everyone has the same expectations about what the project will deliver. It’s not a full, extensive list of scope items, and it certainly doesn’t replace the work breakdown structure (which is different from the product breakdown structure). However it is a handy document to have to define the boundaries of the project work.

Elements of a scope statement

  • Description of project scope, even at a high level. As you get further into the requirements elicitation and project lifecycle, you’ll uncover more detail about exactly what is required. At this point, you simply want to make sure there is a broad, accurate description of what is in scope.
  • Exclusions. As well as documenting what is in scope, you also want to call out what is specifically out of scope.
  • Acceptance criteria. Document what conditions or quality measures must be met before the deliverables can be finalized and approved.

The scope statement forms part of the baseline for your project scope.

The Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure, or WBS, is a hierarchical decomposition of the deliverables required to complete the project. You can show the WBS as a tree diagram or a documented list. It should include all the component parts of the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is where you break up the work in manageable pieces. Any project, even a kindergarten finger painting activity, must be broken into manageable sequences in order not to descend into chaos. We call those sequences work packages. Refer to the Project Scope Statement to create your WBS. By attacking the project through work packages, everyone stays organized and the workload is manageable.

Elements of a WBS

  • Name of the deliverable
  • A unique reference number for the deliverable
  • Name of person or department responsible for creating the deliverable
  • Scheduled start and end dates
  • Resources required to complete the deliverable
  • Overview of requirements and other standards that must be met
  • Expected cost for completing the deliverable
  • Any specific measures for quality assurance.

The scope baseline

The scope baseline is a record of your expected project scope once it is created. If your project changes – and in most project managers’ experience it will – then you can adapt and update your scope statement and rebaseline scope accordingly. That’s what it means to do scope control in project management: you control the scope through documentation and the change process.

However you document your project scope, your goal should always be to reduce ambiguity as much as possible and to get the fullest picture possible. Then you can be sure that what your project delivers is going to meet the needs of stakeholders. Work together with the project team and key stakeholders to cover as much ground as you can, and consult widely to ensure all possible scope elements are included (or excluded).

The primary challenge that projects have is that they don’t define their scope well. There are a lot of things associated with that besides just the work breakdown structure. If you don’t define your scope in clear and concise terms in the beginning and go through that process of working out exactly what you are going to deliver to your customer, then you’re going to be missing things. When we have schedule overruns and cost overruns it is because things come up halfway through the project.
Josh Nankivel

PM Podcast Episodes about Scope Management

Below you'll find a few of our hand-picked favorite episodes about project scope management. These podcasts will give you multiple expert views into the world of requirements, WBS and other topics that will help you get to grips with this challenging subject.

Scope Management and Project Requirements

Learn how to elicit, document, and manage requirements to control project scope creep in this expert interview. You'll also take away tips for how to manage project stakeholders to minimize the risk of an ever-growing list of user requirements. The discussion covers what the state of scope in project management is overall and how business analysis plays into this, and also how to manage if you are struggling with project scope creep.
Jamal Moustafaev
Jamal Moustafaev

How to Use a Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a powerful project management planning and controlling tool. It is the backbone to planning and managing scope on any project. In this interview you'll learn about a real example of a work breakdown structure shipbuilding style! Find out more about the WBS in practice, as part of the fascinating world of the shipyard. You'll learn how to apply and use a WBS and take away tips for your projects.
Fernando Remolina, PMP
Fernando Remolina González

How to Manage Scope When You Don't Have Any Time

In this expert interview you'll learn why you should manage requirements, whether you need a requirements management plan, how business analysis supports requirements management and more. Elizabeth Larson dispels common misconceptions and provides tips for managing requirements when you don’t have the time. You'll take away three time saving techniques for requirements elicitation and management.
Elizabeth Larson and Cornelius Fichtner
Elizabeth Larson and Cornelius Fichtner

How to Manage Assumptions

Putting together your project scope includes making assumptions. In this episode you'll learn how to understand and acknowledge those project assumptions. Beth Spriggs will help you recognize when you may be assuming a project or task is easier or faster than it actually is, priorities are aligned and haven't changed, or assuming who owns, or is responsible for, what. You'll take away 5 ideas on how to develop and expand your project assumptions list.
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner
Beth Spriggs and Cornelius Fichtner


If you want your project to succeed, you need to invest time in project scope management. The resources on this page will help you take the first steps in building your skills in this area, and if you are already confident with the basic, take a look at some of the episodes discussing advanced topics or search the website for those on interpersonal skills. So much of managing the scope of a project is talking to stakeholders, negotiating, and really listening to what they want. Then you can manage those expectations to what is achievable within the time and budget and deliver successfully.

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