How to Manage Project Scope

When you’re talking project management, you’re really talking about scope. It’s what a project leader is responsible for and it’s what measures the success or failure of a project. Scope is everything.

Sure, there are other aspects of the project that a manager is required to oversee, for instances, resources. But even your team will be measured by the rule of scope.

But what is scope? Our online dictionary of project management terms defines scope as “the sum total of all tasks, requirements or features in a project.” When some new requests or features or tasks is added after a project has been planned, then they are commonly referred to as “out of scope.”

See what we mean? As a project leader, you’re going to have to actively manage scope on your project in order to meet your targeted goals and deadlines. But first, let’s get deeper into the definition of scope.

3 ways to control scope in your projects

Want v. Need

The project’s goals are determined by stakeholders, but those decisions are not etched in stone. Yes, things change, but as a project manager you have to make sure those changes are clearly aligned with the overall outcome designed by the stakeholders.

To make sure that the scope of the project is understood mutually between yourself and the stakeholders you need to have them paint a picture of where their needs are and what their wants may be.

That way you can know what they expect, when they expect it, and at what price they’re willing to pay for the final product. Then, and only then, can you control the change to stay on target. So, once you have a clear picture of what it is your responsible for, how do you manage it?

Controlling Scope

When it comes to managing the scope on your project, project management expert and trainer, Devin Deen, notes that there are three basic elements that a project leader needs to remember. The first one is knowing the scope, which we discussed briefly above. Next, you must train your team, and finally, as with everything it’s all about how you communicate.

Know the Project Scope

We’ve told you how important it is to get the parameters of the project clear with your stakeholders, but that’s merely the beginning. You have to then relate that information to your team members. This provides them with buy-in to the project and the ability to work with some autonomy so you don’t have to micromanage them, which nobody likes.

Not only your team, but your business users must be aware of the project scope. In fact, everyone involved in the project, from top to bottom, should have a strong working knowledge of the project’s scope in order to be able to perform their tasks and understand what is expected of them and why.

Some ways to distribute this information is by generating commercial documents, such as a statement of work and your terms of reference. A kick-off presentation, which is basically how to start off a project, but provides the project team, the stakeholders and your business holders with an overview of the goals, timeline and budget.

This isn’t a one-time thing. If things change, and they always do, then you have to schedule weekly meetings to discuss the scope of your project and where it happens to be at that place and time. Remember, the day-to-day work on smaller tasks can sometimes blind people to the bigger picture.

Take the Time to Train

It’s important that your team know the scope of a project so they know what it is they’re supposed to do, but it’s more than that. The team should be trained to react to change so you don’t have to constantly be holding their hands during the run of the project. The team needs training in order for them to identify change and act on it.

Your team is often the ones on the front lines, doing tasks everyday and talking with business users. Therefore, you must have them well-trained to know immediately when the scope of the project is being interfered with and subject to change. When these minor, or major, turns occur you can know about them sooner and deal with them quicker.

Also, by knowing where the project is going, the team by alert you to any potential detours put up by business users. But for them to do this, they need training. They need to know the scope of the project, the timeline, the direction, the path you’ve outlined. Once they do, then it’s like there are scores of micro-project leaders throughout your project, with eyes on everything, especially what you aren’t immediately privy to.

Communications Is Key

You’ve probably got the gist of it by now, and it’s become obvious that all aspects of managing the scope of your project lie on a sturdy foundation of strong and clear communications. Think about it, every other point in the management of scope relies of communications. If you’re not able to articulate what you want, you’re not going to get it.

You need to constantly be in communications with your team, your stakeholders, your business users…everyone. But communications isn’t only a megaphone, it’s also a headphone. When you talk, you want to have people’s undivided attention. When they speak you should show them the same respect. Communications works best when it’s a two-way street.

The last thing you want is scope creep, which will happen if the lines of communications are not open or somehow blocked by not being clearly understood or listening actively. You can have the best baseline to measure your planned versus actual dates, but if you’re unable to communicate, then it’s all for naught.

There you have it, three simple steps to take in order to manage the scope of your project. There are more things you can do, of course, but this is a great start. If you begin here then you’re going to have less problems as you move forward in your project and more success as when you end it.

One thing that helps manage the scope of your project is having the right tools to be able to see where you are in real-time. is a collaborative suite of software solutions with the project leader in mind, and through its dashboard can generate reports that capture the project at that moment, defined by the points you decide on. See for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial.

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