How to Define The Scope of a Project

Defining the scope of a project is the process of developing a detailed description of the project and product (PMBOK, 2013, pg 105). According to Shelly and Rosenblatt (2011, pg 74), defining the scope means to precisely define the specific extent of the project. For example, a statement that reads "the project scope is to modify the accounts payable system", is not as specific as the statement "the project is to allow customers to inquire online about account balances and recent expense payments".
In the article by Khan, Project Scope Management, scope planning has an intermediate stage, but once the scope definition begins, details of the scope are identified down to the work package level (Khan, 2006, pg 14). Defining a scope can be extremely iterative. In project scope development, a high level vision will be developed initially for projects, but as more information is received about the project, the boundaries and scope of the project will be impacted one iteration at a time.
Some project managers break their project scope management into initiation, planning, definition, verification, and change control. Some project managers on the other hand break up their scope management into different set of divisions, such as assumptions and constraints. And yet some project managers do not break up scope management into any sub parts. The best approach I have experienced in defining and managing scopes is to gather a preliminary portfolio of feasibility, constraints, problem, and business need before generating a project scope statement to then build the scope management around.

Regardless of your methods, your approach to defining the scope of a project is extremely important and if done well, it should maximize the success of completing your project. Failure to do so would be inviting significant risks to your project before you even get started with the execution.
-R. Howell


Shelly, G., Rosenblatt, H. (2011). Systems Analysis and Design. Independence, KY; Cengage Learning.
Khan, A. (2006). Project Scope Management. Cost Engineering, 48(6), 12-16.
Project Management Institute (2013). PMBOK Fifth Edition. Newtown Square, PA; The Project Management Institute.


Ron H.

Ron for Business and Computer Systems

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