What Is Scope?

Scope refers to the combined objectives and requirements needed to complete a project. The term is often used in project management. Properly defining the scope of a project allows managers to estimate costs and the time required to finish the project. That's what makes scope management such an important part of business—it saves both time and money. There are generally two different types of scope in project management. These are project and product scope.

Key Takeaways

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

Understanding Scope

Scope is a term used in project management. 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. By identifying and recognizing different variables of a project through scope management, companies are able to save money.

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

As mentioned above, there are two types of scope—product scope and project scope. The product scope is a way to identify a product or service's functions, while the project scope highlights everything needed to deliver that product or service. In short, product scope represents the functional requirements while project scope is the how-to part of project management.

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 vs. Project Scope

Product 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. This is the final product or service. Product scope may also refer to a service or other item for customer use. Product scope often considers how to evaluate whether the object is on track for completion and whether it meets the expected outcome. 

Project Scope

Conversely, the project scope encompasses all the work needed to deliver a product or service. In short, 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. 

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 may also be included in the project scope. Workgroups will often 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.