How to create a successful project scope statement

The creation of a scope statement should be your top priority before starting any project. Here we offer you crucial tools to avoid scope creep, improper planning, unclear requirements, and other well-known causes of project failure. Creating a scope statement can be seen as a difficult task, as there isn’t a prescribed way to create it.

You can recognize a compelling scope statement by the presence of these four indicators below:

  1. It’s short, precise, straightforward
  2. It gives you a general view of the project
  3. It aims at the quality of the project
  4. It’s possible to write it within a few days

Still, remember that scope statement and project plan are two different things: the first is created and approved before the second, setting its parameters and style.

What to include in your scope statement

Even though there is more than one way to decide what to include in a project scope statement, it should have, at least, the following six sections: 

Objective

You are likely to have defined the objective of your project long before you considered creating a scope statement. Therefore, you already know its content. It doesn’t need to be long or complex. In should be one or two lines that give your team the information they need to understand your project’s goals.

Remember to use the SMART approach when defining your objective:

  • Specific – clearly stating what you hope to achieve
  • Measurable – possible to be verified mathematically
  • Achievable – as in realistic
  • Relevant – is applicable to the overall goal
  • Time-oriented – accomplishable within the time frame at your disposal

lightbulb floating signifying project scope statement objective

Context

The context section lists both internal and external activities that will have an impact on your project. For instance, you will probably handle payments, manage assignments, or hire new employees. Knowing these processes beforehand will help you find out which resources are essential to the execution of your plan.

Many scopes present these activities in the form of case diagrams, so their flow can be easily understood. However, you should keep it simple and register only the most significant processes in your scope statement – leave the details for your plan.

Constraints

The challenges, or constraints, which your team will face while implementing your project are the focus of this section. You should mention anything that can limit or have a negative impact on your project, especially those factors able to cause it’s premature end.

Usually, constraints are related to time or cost. For instance, maybe you are concerned that your competitor will launch their product before yours. Or maybe you don’t have enough money to buy the best raw materials. They can also be legal requirements or policies you must respect, so consider other possibilities.  

Assumptions

On assumptions, list the hypotheses that can cause changes on your project when proved either right or wrong. You will keep them in mind before and during the execution of the project and, once verified, you will analyze the work already done to find out if adjustments are now required.

For instance, one of your assumptions might be that the cost of the materials will remain the same until you launch your product. If there is either an increase or a decrease in the price, it will be time to check its impact on the project – the final pricing of your product might have to be changed.

Acceptance criteria

This topic is the one your team will consider as the most relevant to them. On your acceptance criteria, you will reveal the minimum parameters and standards you expect to see met at the end of your project.

Your acceptance criteria should be based on the following aspects: functional (tasks, processes, features), non-functional (design elements), or performance. You will define some by your preferences, but usually, they come from your industry and customers’ expectations. You must also be able to test your criteria. Otherwise, there will be no way to verify if they have been achieved.

Proposed product or service statement

Here you will mention how the final product or service must look like. For physical products, you will describe material specifications, such as size, color, weight. For non-physical products or services, you will be mostly talking about features.

In this section, you will also refer to any prototypes, versions, or pilots to be created during the execution of your project. Again, this isn’t your project plan, so your proposed product or service statement should be a summary, a list of broad guidelines, and nothing more.

How to gather the information for your project scope statement

One of the biggest challenges you will face while creating your scope statement is data collection. Research both internal and external is the short answer of how you will gather these facts. Here are some sources you should consider:

  • Customer service and sales personnel: If you are struggling to understand what your customers want, talk to your support and sales teams. They have plenty of data and insights to share with you.
  • Board of directors: when the issue is the goal of the project, book a meeting with the decision makers. Make clear that you don’t have anything to share yet, but you would like to hear their general opinion.
  • Focus group: if you have the budget and the expertise, the best way to know what your customers are looking for is asking them directly. You can do it through focus groups, facilitated workshops, and other marketing research techniques.
  • Previous projects: go through the records of your previous projects to see what you can learn from them. Check their scope statements and compare them to the products or services delivered to judge their effectiveness.
  • Your competitors and industry: even though you won’t be asking them directly, there is a lot you can learn from your competitors, especially about the project’s constraints.
  • Your team: organize a brainstorming session with your team to hear suggestions and ideas. People who aren’t under pressure might surprise you with their fresh point of view.

A desk filled with laptops and reports of information related to project scope statement

Validate your scope

Once you have your scope statement on paper, consider if you need to validate it with a decision maker. If you are the sole person in charge, good news, you can move to the next task. However, if you aren’t, seek approval before sharing the statement with your team. It can minimize the chances of having to adjust it later  – the first sign of scope creep.

How you will validate your scope depends on the company. In some of them, an email with a file attached is enough. In others, you will have to create a professional presentation to defend your ideas during a formal meeting. Make sure you know what is expected from you and follow the procedures.

Share it with your team

After receiving the green light from your decision makers, introduce the scope statement to your team. Tell them how important is that they not only read it but familiarize themselves with each word on it. You are also expected to explain what the next step is – possibly, the creation of the project plan.

Be ready to answer questions and to face objections. You might be able to make a few concessions, but, sometimes, you won’t be able to accommodate suggestions, and you should explain why. Everyone must leave the meeting understanding the document, its importance, and their role in the process.

In conclusion

Every project needs a scope statement, so don’t skip this phase. Considering the amount of detail included, it’s hard to create a reliable project plan without some pre-discussed guidelines. You can have your statement prepared within a day or two, provided you have easy access to the right information and the decision makers.

It’s possible that, right now, you don’t have the time or resource to spare. In this case, draft a few paragraphs, even if it only for your own guidance. Check it while creating your project plan and during its execution, comparing it to what is happening in real-time in your project management system. It still can be a beneficial tool under these circumstances.

By Lucy Damasceno

November 13, 2018


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