What Is Scope?

Scope is a project management term referring to the combined objectives and requirements needed to complete a project. Properly defining the scope of a project allows managers to estimate costs and the time required to finish the project.

How Scope Works

Scope is a term used in project management. There are two types of scope which are product scope and project scope. Project management involves the planning and organization of a company's resources to complete a specific task, event, or action and is usually a one-time event. Scope describes the required processes and resources to complete a project or produce a product.

[Important: Properly defining the scope of a project allows managers to estimate costs and the time required to finish the project.]

deliverable can include any objective or milestone within a project, such as the creation of products, services, or processes. Additionally, it can consist of incremental changes, staged across the project plan, used to govern or assess the pace of the project’s progress.

Product Scope Versus Project Scope

Product scope identifies the characteristics and functions of a product or service. These characteristics include physical features such as size and materials, as well as functional specifications. Functional considerations include what the product is designed to do and its purpose, or end use.

Product scope focuses on the result or the actual offering, which is the final product or service. Product scope can also refer to a service or other item for customer use. Product scope will consider how to evaluate the object is on track for completion and is meeting the expected outcome. 

Conversely, project scope encompasses all the work needed to deliver a product or service. The project scope describes how the mission will be accomplished. It includes identifying and documenting the project's goals, deliverables, tasks, project members, deadlines, and milestones. Documentation consists of the scope statement, statement of work, and a breakdown of the work structure. 

[Important: Project scope encompasses all the work needed to deliver a product or service.]

The project scope also outlines the project's limits by specifying what is not included within the scope of the plan. It can incorporate information about the project's budget or available resources. Information regarding the project schedule, as well as the assignment of tasks, can also be included in the project scope. Often, workgroups will be assigned listing the internal or external personnel who will be involved with the project.

Special Considerations

Uncontrollable changes that extend deadlines are known as scope creep. Extended deadlines may change the original requirements of the project's scope. As the project progresses, small changes to the original plan occur, expanding the scope from the initial limits regarding budget and time. Small changes can lead to additional changes, resulting in a cascading effect of further considerations and requirements.

Effective project management considers the possibility of scope creep and incorporates strategies to mitigate it. Understanding the vision or primary objective, proper initial planning, as well as devising and adopting approaches to avoid scope creep from the outset are ways to prevent scope creep.

Key Takeaways

  • Scope outlines the time and cost of a business project.
  • Project scope and product scope differ in that project scope encompasses all the work needed, while product scope is focused only on the end result.
  • Scope creep is when uncontrollable changes extend the project deadlines and require effective project management.