How to Identify Project Scope: All You Need to Know

project management softwareMost projects are usually doomed right from the start. Why? Three words - unclear project scope. Defining scope of a project is extremely important to not only make sure no obstacles crop up unexpectedly but also resolve any potential risks that may arise during its execution.  

Haven’t we all heard about the Google Wave I/O failure? Let’s jog up our memory….

Developed in 2009, Google Wave was introduced as the best group collaboration and micro-messaging software in “history”. However, it failed drastically. After thoroughly analyzing the many problems in the software that lead to this catastrophic failure - the main issue was pinpointed to be “not determining the target audience”. Users found the UI to be extremely difficult to understand and the chatting feature was all over the place. Although the purpose of the product was defined, the way it was to be implemented for the target audience was flawed. This incident screams “project scope” blunder!

So, what did this example teach us?

Always determine and document your target audience in your project scope to identify and build solid user requirements.

Another example that best highlights project failure due to poor project scope management is the  BBC’s launch of its Digital Media Initiative. Introduced in 2008, the DMI aimed at archiving methods and modernizing the company’s production by using digital media. This initiative was discontinued in 2013 due to delay in deliverables and lack of project governance.

Here the main lesson was: “Always define a control process to avoid scope creep.”

So, how do we avoid such problems? By identifying project scope properly. Let’s first define project scope. PMBOK defines project scope as:

Project Scope is the work that needs to be achieved to successfully deliver a service, product, or result with a specified set of functionalities and features.

Project PlanningProject scope, basically, outlines the goals that need to be achieved when delivering the final product or service. A few aspects that need to be identified in the project scope include:

  • Project objectives
  • Project goals
  • Sub-phases
  • Tasks
  • Resources
  • Budget
  • Schedule

Now, let’s cover the steps needed to identify project scope.

How to Identify Project Scope: The Four Steps

Step 1: Identify Project Needs

Project Planning

Identifying project needs is the first step to:

  • Establish a project timeline
  • Understand project resource allocation needs
  • Set project goals

It is essential to understand project needs so as to know what exactly needs to be done when trying to reach the end goal. Everything needs to be identified right from defining the project goal to determining the subtasks that need to be accomplished for achieving the end goal. Further, the resources needed to get all the work done needs to be determined as well.

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Step 2: Identify Project Objectives

Project objectives are the different business goals that a company wishes to achieve through their product or service. A few examples of project objectives include introducing a new product, developing new software, or creating a new service in an organization. The best way to identify and determine project objectives is through the S.M.A.R.T guidelines.

  • Specific What are the project goals and objectives? Why and how will they be achieved?
  • Measurable Can all of them be accounted for?
  • Achievable Can it be accomplished with the available resources?
  • Realistic Can it be easily delivered, irrespective of any complications?
  • Time-boundCan everything be achieved in the set time frame?

Make sure all these questions are answered before you proceed to the third step.

Step 3: Identify Project Expectations

new-project-3Quoting the Google Wave example again, the basic problem was not identifying and meeting the target audience’s expectations - although the teams' expectations were met. Therefore, it is extremely important to identify project expectations for both the team working on the project and the target audience. So, for the team, the project expectations include efficiency and effectiveness of the project’s operational process.

For the target audience, the main expectation is customer delight, that is how happy the customers are when using your product or service. This usually is determined by the product or service:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Availability
  • Policies

Make sure you have identified and defined all these aspects when defining project scope.


Must Read: Common Project Risks and How EPM Software is a Great Solution


Step 4: Identify Project Constraints

The last and most important step in understanding project scope is identifying the project constraints. Being aware of a project’s limitations is as equally important as identifying its goals. This can minimize problems or issues faced during project execution, thereby preventing any delay in deliverables.

A few things that can cause project constraints are:

  • Internal and external conditions
  • Dynamic environment
  • Technical glitches
  • Lack of resources

Bottom Line: Be Thorough!

It is essential for you to always cover all the basics before describing your project scope. Always follow the four steps mentioned in this blog to make sure the project is implemented without any hassles.

Now that you know how to identify project scope, the ideal way to make sure you avoid project scope or manage them efficiently is by using simple project management software. PM software, like ProProfs Project, not only help you manage multiple projects easily but also give you a platform to define project goals clearly and manage project creep efficiently.

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About the author

Niharika Singh

A passionate and proficient technical content writer, Niharika primarily focuses on project management sector. With a knack and love for research, she is always keen to analyze and explore concepts before delivering insightful content that is reader-friendly. Apart from writing, she is an avid painter and loves sports.

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