The Scope Statement and its importance for the Project Manager

the scope statement

The Scope Statement is a document that is extremely important for the success of a project. The project manager will develop the scope statement by processing the project start-up document (or project charter) produced by the project sponsor.

The project manager will be responsible for defining the scope of the project in this document, providing measurable goals.

Saving a project with the scope statement

It can also happen to be part of a project that, for different reasons, is delayed or out of budget. In these cases, the scope statement becomes vital. The project manager will ask the project team to explain the reasons why the project is not respecting the schedule.

Once the appropriate information has been taken, it is obvious that the PM will have to make decisions. Often, a real change of program will be indispensable together with the approval of a possible new budget in order, in the best case, to get everything back on track.

These situations can occur especially when the scope of the project has not been effectively defined. In these cases, if the Scope Statement is not implemented or not properly managed, the project will seriously run the risk of going astray with respect to the initial planning.

What is it and why the scope statement is important

Since a project is defined as a temporary effort that creates a product, a service or a result, the scope of the project is fundamental. The scope of a project, in fact, defines which activities are part of the project and which are not, what the project will carry out and what will not.

In short: The scope statement defines the project. The creation of a detailed scope statement will therefore help the project manager to bring the project to success.

In particular, the scope statement is fundamental for these three situations:

  • Define the boundaries of the project. The scope statement guarantees a common and clear understanding of the project between the interested parties and helps to manage the so-called scope creep. In other words, it describes what is included in the project and what is excluded and, therefore, forms the basis for the project plan.
  • Ensure a common understanding of the project among stakeholders. In addition to being the foundation of the project plan, the scope statement will also help ensure that all interested parties are on the same page. By setting the right expectations with stakeholders, the PM can reduce the chances of misunderstandings that could arise later and that could derail the project.
  • Help manage change requests. Another way in which the description of the scope can help the project manager to manage the project effectively, is to use it as a guide to evaluate all the modification requests that are made. If the change request does not fall within the limits defined in the project, this must necessarily be rejected.

According to the Project Management Institute changes in scope – due to little clarity at the initial stage – are the main cause of the failure of a project.

This is quite common in almost all sectors, and for this reason project managers must learn to define, communicate and control the scope of the project.

To avoid the unpleasant possibilities that derive from a poorly defined project scope, project managers must write a good scope statement.

This will facilitate the acceptance of the scope of the project by the stakeholders , will put on the same page the project team and will prevent the start of unauthorized activities.

A scope statement is a useful tool for outlining project results and identifying the constraints, assumptions, and key factors for success.

The affirmation of the well-written area clearly defines the boundaries of a project.

The scope of a project has a direct impact on the other two elements of the triple project constraint, ie time and resources.

Moreover, the project manager can consider the scope statement a formal documentation of the project scope.
scope statement

How to write a scope statement

The instructions in the scope statement must contain as many details as possible, but only up to a certain point and without exaggeration.

The minimum length of a scope statement is that which describes the primary risks of the project.

For example, stating that the project is to “build a fence” will communicate basic information, but these are certainly not enough. Everyone knows this already and there is no added value. It would therefore be preferable, in this specific example, to define the start and end points of the project, the height of the fence, the type of fence, the meteorological hypotheses, etc.

There is no default or maximum length for a scope statement, but this needs to be specific and to report the primary risks.

A good scope statement includes the following elements:

  • General description of the work. Returning to the previous example, here is where it is stated that the project is “building a fence”.
  • Final results. What will be produced by the project and what are its main features? Which customer must be satisfied by the output of the project?
  • Justification for the project. In order to provide a complete understanding of the purpose, sometimes it is necessary to deepen the justification of why the project was started in the first place.
  • If the project faces certain physical, legislative boundaries, etc. these can be a source of risk and therefore should be defined.
  • Hypothesis. All projects have taken certain conditions as part of their existence. For example, the fence construction project has assumed good weather conditions, availability of tools, etc. What are these hypotheses and what is the impact in the case of an inaccuracy of these hypotheses on the project?

A suggestion is to write a scope statement following the so-called SMART goals.

Of course, predicting the future is impossible. However, the Scope Statement represents a commitment to the project based on what is known “today” and what is realistically expected to happen in the future.

If and when situations change, it is necessary to evaluate the effect of the changes on all aspects of the project and propose the necessary changes in line with the Scope Statement in order to ensure the success of the project.

All this, however, only if the scope statement has been optimally implemented.

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