Scope definition

As more information is gathered and analyzed from the all the project stakeholders, a better understanding of the project needs is achieved which in turn allows further definition and expansion of the preliminary project scope statement. Once the scope boundaries are set for the deliverables, what is and what is not included within product scope and project scope can be determined. The final output produces the project scope statement, which is a full and detailed document able to describe all the deliverables, the work required to achieve them, the product acceptance criteria and the approval requirements to meet the project objectives. As the words imply, 'scope definition' simply means defining a project. The reasons for having to define the scope of a project are:

  • to identify the business objectives,

  • to identify the requirements,

  • to identify the broad areas of work required.

The work to refine and improve the detail contained in the preliminary scope statement is conducted mainly by the project management team. Their task is to gain the opinions and needs of the stakeholders, and then translate their expectations and objectives into specific deliverables. The discussions and assessments should also be able to determine the priorities assigned to the project's requirements. This knowledge could be extremely useful if decisions must be made regarding issues of trade-off within the 'triple constraint'. Product analysis may also be required to determine what the problems are with an old product, and then to decide on the requirements in order to achieve an improvement. The last stage of the product analysis is to specify the work necessary to achieve the improved requirements for the item. Expert opinion can be included at any stage within the analysis phase to further develop the requirements needed to match the project objectives.

PMI says

'Scope Definition is the process of developing a detailed project scope statement as the basis for future project decisions.' PMBOK Guide (p.375)


The project's boundaries, assumptions and constraints are vital factors to be considered during scope definition. The knowledge of what is included within the project work, and what is not, remains key to the project's success. There must be no room to allow personal interpretation, because this could cause a misunderstanding of the work to be completed, or a redefinition of the constraints applied to the project. The initial assumptions and constraints detailed in the project charter are used as the starting point, but further analysis of the project's external or internal restrictions, such as budget profile, resource allocations and schedule impacts due to a plant shutdown, will need to be conducted. This work should also review the accuracy and consistency of the assumptions, as well as expanding the statements included in the project charter. Once again expert advice may be beneficial to determine extra assumptions and constraints that could have been missed by the project team.

The series of analysis activities conducted during scope definition may give rise to a requested change to the project. For example, the extra weight of equipment added to a vehicle that is needed to match the customer requirements may demand an increase in power output of the engine. The proposed response could involve the production of a change request to increase the size, or change the fuel of the power unit. Before any action is taken to amend or change any of the project's plans or documentation, the requested change must be assessed and evaluated by the integrated change control process. If approval is granted to incorporate this change, only then can the scope definition process adjust the requirements specified in the developing project scope statement.

The project scope statement must ensure that all the stakeholders have a common understanding of the project's scope and its objectives. The linkage between individual requirements within the project charter and project scope statement should be maintained to show the justification of every requirement included in the project scope statement, and how each deliverable is to be met. The project charter is the key document which the entire project requirements are traced back to, because it states the sponsor's needs.

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Definitive Guide to Project Management. The Fast Track to Getting the Job Done on Time and on Budget
The Definitive Guide to Project Management: The fast track to getting the job done on time and on budget (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0273710974
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 217
Authors: Sebastian Nokes
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