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What is Project Scope Management?

“Project Scope Management includes the processes required to ensure that the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully." (PMBOK guide, Fifth Edition, p343). 

Managing the project scope is primarily concerned with defining and controlling what is and is not included in the project.”

There is an old saying that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

This is true, of course, but if the first step is in the wrong direction, you may never arrive at the expected destination.

The first step in Project Management is: agreeing with the client exactly what the project is expected to deliver, i.e. the process of Project Scope Management.

What is a Scope Statement?

 The narrative description of the project scope, including

  • major deliverables,
  • project assumptions,
  • project constraints,
  • and a description of work,

"The project scope statement is the description of the project scope, major deliverables, assumptions and constraints.  The project scope statement documents the entire scope, including project and product scope.  It describes, in detail, the project`s deliverables and the work required to create those deliverables.  It also provides a common understanding of the project scope among project stakeholders." (PMBOK guide, Fifth Edition, p123).

So the Scope Statement contains all the specifications and requirements that the project must fulfill.

What is included and what is not?

So, the Project Scope Management knowledge area is concerned with defining and documenting exactly what the project will deliver (and some of the things that it will not deliver), and recording this information on the Scope Statement.

The Scope Statement should then be signed by the customers and the Project Manager.

If you don’t get this critical stage right, your project will probably fail.

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail” [1]

Some clients and managers can become anxious at the beginning of a project, because they see time and money being expended on planning, but none of the actual product being produced. But the quality of the finished product is proportional to the quality of the necessary planning in the early stages. Each dollar spent in planning correctly, might ultimately save ten dollars in costly rework, when the clients refuse to accept the product, because it does not meet their needs.

Customers may say they know exactly what they want until it comes to the stage of actually writing it down in detail. If the project manager does not put effort into this stage, it is impossible to know what the customer actually wants, and if you don’t know what the customer wants, it is impossible to deliver it. Then you will reap the wrath of the customer at the end of the project, simply for not being able to read their mind!

This is why it is vital to strive to discover and document the customer’s true expectations, and then to manage those expectations throughout the life of the project.

But it is all so simple, why waste time documenting it?


Some managers or customers may tell you that you don’t need to have a scope statement, or that you don’t need to get it signed off, because the requirements are “so simple”, or “pretty obvious”. But if the requirements are so simple and obvious, then it will take them only a few minutes of their time to write them down.

The Project Manager should have known to include it!

One of the biggest problems in business is the customer’s assumption that something is “so obvious” that the project manager should have known it had to be done; thus often a reported “failure” in a project is simply that the product, service or result produced by the project did not satisfy the customer’s (undocumented) assumptions.

This is partially solved by documenting everything that the project will deliver to them, but you need to go one step further and document things that won’t be included too. Obviously you can’t document everything that won’t be included, as that would be an infinite number, but you need to document those items that the customer might reasonably expect to be included.

For example, two people who are operating a small business called, “We Sell Stuff Cheap” wish to expand their business, and contract you to develop a simple web site for their store. You were hired because your cost and time estimates for the work were the lowest (tip: when one quote is much lower than the others, then usually the consultant doesn’t realise all the work that is involved, or else they are hoping to get the money unethically during the project, by charging extra fees).

Prior to a company initiating a project, feasibility studies can help determine if a project should be selected for authorisation. Projects are initiated based on business and customer needs, as well as on opportunities.

When you work though a Scope Statement, your client might decide that there is

too much work, it’s too difficult to do,it will cost too much or take too long.      

 Do not be tempted to leave items off the Scope Statement and attempt to get the money from the customer some other way during the project; that would be unethical.


As an ICT professional you must always reserve the right to walk away from possible work if you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement with a client, especially of the customer refuses to help you create a Scope Statement.

Projects should be strategic, but what does that mean?

According to SFIA Project Management (PRMG), a Level 4 project should have “no significant strategic impact."  (SFIA 6 Reference Guide p37).

But what does “strategic” actually mean?

To understand that, we must first understand two documents that every organisation should have, i.e. a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement.

  • The Mission statementis a declaration of where your organisation is at present (it answers the question “why does this organisation exist”); and
  • The Vision statementsays where your organisation intends to be at some stated time in the future.

For example your mission statement might include:

“We are a software house that provides Finance and HR software for the leading banks in Perth, Western Australia…”

And your vision statement could include:

“Within three to five years we will be the Finance and HR software provider of choice to 75% of the leading banks across Australia…”

In order for your organisation to move from where it is now (its mission) to where it hopes to be (its vision) your organisation must develop and execute a strategic plan, which is a coordinated series of steps leading to the Vision, and each one of those steps will be one or more projects.

The workers doing their everyday jobs cannot achieve the organisation’s vision; only strategic projects can do that. Why is that? It is because everyday work (operations) just maintain “business as usual”, i.e. the organisation’s mission.

And if you initiate a project that is not strategic (not on the strategic plan), then it will be a step in the wrong direction (or at least, not a step in the right direction).

It is important to note that the organisation should never arrive at its vision, because senior management should meet every few years to review and update the vision, to give the organisation more goals to achieve.

Scope Creep

Many people misunderstand the definition of scope creep.

Everyone knows that to “creep” means to move very slowly, so they think that “Scope Creep” is an accidental slippage in project time, but it is not.

Usually scope creep will cause the project to take more time (and money and resources), but these scenarios are NOT scope creep, they are merely symptoms.

So what is Scope Creep?

Scope creep involves the use of extra features or deliverables or changes added to the project scope informally, i.e. without formal (signed) agreement.

What does Project Scope mean?

At the start of a project, you (as Project Manager) will discuss with the client what they expect the project to deliver, then you will document the client’s expectations in detail. This detailed document is called the Scope Statement, and it includes both the items that have to be produced by the project (the deliverables), and the work required to produce them.

You will then discuss the scope statement with the client to ensure that you are in agreement with what will be produced, and eventually when agreement is reached, you and the project sponsor (probably your manager), and the client sign the scope statement (it is now authorised). The signed scope statement is also known as the "scope baseline".

You will also prepare a schedule (showing what will happen and when) and a budget for controlling costs, as well as other plans. All of these plans need to be authorised too, and then they will become baselines as well.

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