collaboration board for project scope

Project Scope: What Is It And How Do You Model A Project Successfully?

Projects come in all shapes and sizes. You might work on a project that lasts only a few days, and then come across a monster of a project that takes years to complete.

The differing scales of projects that you work on means that it’s essential to have a clear understanding of project scope. After all, if you’re going to be successful in managing a project — big or small — you need to know what’s involved and what needs to be done.

For larger projects, this is even more relevant as the project will be far more complicated to manage and coordinate. There’s no room to be vague here!

In this article, we’ll take a look at what project scope is, how you can go about creating a model for your project, and some tips on successfully managing the scope of your project.

Let’s get going!

What Is Project Scope?

In order to understand what project scope is, let’s take a look at the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) definition:

‘Project scope is the work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service or result with the specified features and functions.’

To put it simply, project scope is everything that needs to be done in order for your project to be successful. This includes all of the work that needs to be carried out, as well as the features and functions that need to be delivered.

It’s important to note that project scope is different from project objectives.

Objectives are what you hope to achieve with your project, whereas scope is what actually needs to be done in order to achieve these objectives — think of it as a roadmap for success.

To get a better understanding of this, let’s take a look at an example:

Imagine you’re working on a project to develop a new website for your company. Your objectives might be to increase online sales by 20% and to improve customer satisfaction ratings.

Your project scope, on the other hand, would detail all of the work that needs to be done in order to achieve these objectives. This might include creating a sitemap, designing wireframes, writing content, developing the website, and so on.

group meeting about project scope

How Can You Display Project Scope Effectively?

Project scope is often represented visually using a project scope model. This is simply a way of breaking down all of the work that needs to be done into smaller, more manageable chunks.

There are different types of project scope models that you can choose from, but we’ll take a look at one of the most popular methods — the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The WBS is a hierarchical model that starts with the project as a whole, and then breaks this down into smaller and smaller sections until you have a detailed list of all of the work that needs to be done.

Here’s a quick example to illustrate a WBS better:

Project: Develop new website

Objective 1: Increase online sales by 20%

Objective 2: Improve customer satisfaction ratings


  • Develop sitemap
  • Design wireframes
  • Write content
  • Develop website
  • Test website
  • Launch website

Deliverables: New responsive website

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As you can see, the WBS starts with the project as a whole, and then breaks this down into objectives, scope, and deliverables. The scope is then further broken down into smaller tasks that need to be completed.

This is a great way to get a clear overview of your project, and it’s also useful for identifying any potential risks or problems that could occur.

Once you have your project scope model, you need to make sure that everyone involved in the project understands it. This includes the client, sponsors, stakeholders, and team members.

If there are any changes to the scope, then you need to communicate these changes to everyone involved so that everyone is always on the same page.

However using a WBS is only one way of displaying the project scope. Other ways include:

  • Gantt charts: A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that is often used to represent project timelines. They can be used to show the start and end dates of each task, as well as who is responsible for each task.
  • Network diagrams: A network diagram is a graphical representation of how tasks are interconnected. This can be useful for identifying any dependencies between tasks.

Whichever method you use, ensure that it is one that suits your firm best and will be understood by everyone involved in the project.

a project scope statement

What Is A Project Scope Statement?

A project scope statement is a document (one of many!) that provides a detailed description of the work that will be done as part of a project.

The purpose of the scope statement is to define what work needs to be done, and clarify any work that will not be done as part of the project.

In other words, the project scope statement sets the parameters for what can and cannot be done as part of the project.

Creating a clear and concise project scope statement is essential for ensuring that everyone involved in the project is on the same page, and that there is no confusion about what needs to be done.

The process of creating a project scope statement typically includes:

  • Defining the objectives of the project
  • Outlining the deliverables that need to be produced
  • Describing any exclusions or limitations
  • Listing the major milestones that need to be achieved

Once the project scope statement has been created, it should be reviewed and approved by all relevant stakeholders before work on the project begins.

While a WBS details the work that needs to be done to complete a project, the project scope statement sets the parameters for what can and cannot be done as part of the project.

It is more high-level than the WBS, and provides a broader overview of what needs to be accomplished.

The project scope statement is also an important input into creating the WBS, as it will help to identify any areas that need further clarification.

mapping out project scope on a notebook

3 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Mapping Out Project Scope

When you’re mapping out the scope of your project, it’s important to avoid making some common mistakes. These can really trip you up and make it difficult to manage your project successfully.

Here are three of the most common mistakes that people make when defining project scope:

  • Not being clear about what’s included and what isn’t  –  This is a big one. If you’re not specific about what’s in scope and what isn’t, you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble. Make sure you’re clear about what’s included, and what isn’t.
  • Trying to do too much  –  It’s easy to get carried away when mapping out the scope of your project. You might want to include everything and the kitchen sink! But this is a recipe for disaster. Be realistic about what you can achieve, and focus on the essentials.
  • Not involving stakeholders early on - Stakeholders are people who have a vested interest in the success or failure of your project. They could be your boss, your client, or anyone else with a say in how the project turns out. It’s essential to involve them early on in the process so that they can give you their input and help shape the scope of the project.
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Is Project Scope Really That Important?

It might seem like a formality, but mapping out the project scope is a vital part of a project. Here are 5 reasons why project scope really is that important:

  1. Helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page: By mapping out the project and looking at its scope, we can ensure that everyone involved knows what they need to do and when they need to do it by. This is vital for coordination purposes!
  2. Aids in the identification of risks: By understanding all of the moving parts of a project, you can more easily identify potential risks and plan for them accordingly. This helps to avoid any nasty surprises down the line.
  3. Helps with decision making: When you have a good handle on the scope of a project, it becomes much easier to make decisions about how to proceed. This is especially important when you need to weigh up different options and strategies.
  4. Facilitates better estimation of costs: In order to accurately estimate the costs of a project, you need to have a good understanding of its scope. This includes both the direct and indirect costs that will be incurred.
  5. Makes it easier to spot problems early on: As a result of keeping track of the project’s progress and comparing it against the scope, you can more easily identify any issues or problems that arise. This allows you to take corrective action quickly, before the problem spirals out of control.
discussion about project scope

Final Thoughts

​​Now that we’ve understood what project scope is and how it can be displayed effectively, we can implement it into our own projects.

It’s apparent that project scope is vitally important to the success of any project  – big or small. By taking the time to map out the scope of your project, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page, identify risks early on, and make better decisions about how to proceed.

What’s more, a clear understanding of scope makes it easier to estimate costs accurately and spot problems early on. All of this leads to a smoother-running project with a greater chance of success.

So, don’t underestimate the importance of project scope  –  it really is essential!