What is the project scope? 7 steps to help you define project scope

What is the project scope? 7 steps to help you define project scope

Precisely defining the project scope can be tricky. However, once you understand the scope statement, you get a detailed description of the work that must be done to deliver the output and ways to align your tasks with business objectives. So, without further ado, let’s find out what the project scope is and how it can help you bolster efficacy.

Magnanimous corporate ecosystems stand on the firm shoulders of great managers who have mastered the art and science of project management. Savvy project managers know how to use the right plans and processes to deliver projects on time and within a budget. While project management is no rocket science; it’s no cakewalk either. In fact, according to statistics, 85% of project managers run multiple projects simultaneously, and 91% of project management executives admit their organizations face challenges when they move from project to project.

Whether we are talking about low stakeholder engagement, poorly defined goals, or budget issues, many problems can impede progress, and today, we are all set to identify the root of all these problems. Yes, we are talking about project scope! If you find yourself or anyone in your team running into project management hurdles frequently, the real problem might involve project scope. There’s no denying that scoping a project accurately can be tricky. However, with a list of best practices, it can be easier. Want to know more about what a project scope is and how to define it? Well, here you go!

A Brief Overview of Project Scope

A project involves a lot of your capital, resources, and assets, so when it comes to managing a project, you don’t want to aim too big or too small. Project managers need their project size just to be right- the work done and efforts should be enough to capture all deliverables, but limited enough to be an achievable goal. Wondering how to hit that sweet spot? Well, that’s when project scope comes into the big picture. If you don’t want to overthink, overdo, or overwork, it can help your team stay on track and within the budget.

Definition: In a nutshell, project scope is defined as a way of setting boundaries on your project and outlining exactly what your goals, deadlines, and deliverables are that you will be working towards. When you clarify the project scope, you can determine the overall objectives, constraints, tasks, workflow management strategies, risks, opportunities, tasks, deliverables, etc. By understanding what a project scope is, project managers, team leaders, or any individual contributors can efficiently manage their workloads without running into any unanticipated issues. The clearer your scope statement is, the easier it will be for everyone to pivot and address obstacles.

What is a Scope Statement?

In layman’s language, the project scope statement is a documented version of your project scope. Based on the complexity of your project, a scope statement can be a section of your overall project framework, or a stand-alone document. In addition, if you are outsourcing your work and working with an external agency or team, you can turn your scope statement into a Statement of Work (SOW) to cement the terms of agreement between your organization and the vendor.

The goal of the scope statement is to keep contributors on task, on track, and within budget for completing deadlines. In addition, team leaders also need to map out a procedure for any alterations within the scope statement, so if there are any changes throughout the project cycle, the impact is minimal. Always remember that scope statements vary depending on the needs of a project, but they should always include a breakdown of everything related to the project without any discrepancies.

Scope Creep

Things don’t always work out just how you plan them, and scope creep is the perfect example of it. When your project deliverables exceed the project scope, scope creep happens. For instance, let’s imagine you are working on a product launch without a scope statement. Halfway through the project, a team member adds a press release to your list of deliverables. Whereas, a few days later, another stakeholder adds a blog post about the new product to your to-do list or adds a different task that might take hours.

Well, this is the kind of work your team was not expecting, and the added work can cause unnecessary delays or stress that can impact the quality of your project’s original deliverables. If you want to prevent scope creep or manage it, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Include all the contributors/ stakeholders in your project planning
  • Conduct a thorough SWOT analysis and automate project processes with resource planning software
  • Detail all the possible roadblocks in your project scope statement
  • Define your project scope clearly.

The Significance of Project Scope

Do you have any idea that only 15% of project managers focus on a single project at a time while most of them manage around five projects simultaneously? Well, thriving in the corporate landscape means wearing multiple hats, and having a project scope is vital to keep all the stakeholders aligned. Defining different parameters influencing a project can help alleviate unforeseen issues. There are several advantages to defining the project scope. Some of them are listed as follows:

  • For one, the project scope can provide a clear roadmap for team members. Whenever there are any conflicts or discrepancies, team members can refer back to the project scope at any point in time and get a more comprehensive and clear view of the project goals.

  • Secondly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all stakeholders have the same expectations from a project. Different contributors may have different priorities for a project and the project scope sets the parameters ensuring that everyone is aware of specific intentions and objectives throughout the project cycle.

  • Let’s admit it: funds are limited when a team works on a project and clearly defining deadlines and constraints in the project scope before beginning can make it easier for teams to plan resources.

  • Lastly, but most importantly having a clear project scope can also help to prevent scope creep. Setting the boundaries for a project can alleviate hiccups that may shift the focus of your team away from its prime purpose.

Steps to Define Project Scope

Every organization is unique, and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to define the project scope. Project managers develop their arsenal of best practices over time; however, if you are searching for a way to get started, here are some steps to begin with:

#1 Setting Clear Goals and Objectives

Effective project planning involves establishing clear goals and objectives. The initial step in defining the project scope is identifying measurable goals. Having a sense of direction simplifies the process of charting the path to success. It's crucial to differentiate between goals and objectives—they serve distinct purposes. One of the key ways to impact a project’s success is by clearly defining the goals. Recognizing the goals means:

  • Identifying stakeholders
  • Understanding the expectations and needs of every contributor to the project
  • Formulating a concise project goal list that can address the needs

You can ensure your project aligns with the overall goal list by ensuring your goals are realistic as well as profitable. Project managers apply the SMART framework, and you can do it too. SMART is an acronym where S stands for specific, M is for measurable, A is for achievable, R is for relevant, and T is for timely. You can ensure that your project goals are clear, specific, measurable, pragmatic, relevant, and time-bound across different stages without any exclusions.

There’s no denying that defining project objectives can be daunting and time-consuming during some projects, but well-began means half done. You can spend time on the goal alignment upfront to avoid any confusion or conflicting opinions down the road and this will save you an immense amount of effort, and resources in the long run.

#2 Recognize and Allocate Resources Collaboratively

Let’s make it very clear: no resources mean no project. Your resources are the lifeblood of your organization, and if you want to make project management easy, the key is to create a concise resource plan. A resource can be anything ranging from a vehicle or a meeting room to funds or a person. If you are using it, it’s a resource. Once you have precisely defined your project objective, the next step is to allocate resources.

At times, organizations scramble between multiple projects, and while some employees sit idle, others experience burnout when they work on multiple projects at once. This is where resource allocation software can always help. If manual efforts aren’t bringing you desirable results, you can go for resource planning and prevent over or under-allocation. You must ditch the old-school spreadsheets or manual EMS frameworks and switch to a flexible resource management tool that has the advantage of scalability.

#3 Spot the Project Constraints

You have a close eye on all your project goals, and your resources are at your fingertips. However, how do they impact your project scope? Most people think the project scope is just about the work that’s going to be delivered. However, this isn’t true. When you are drafting your project scope, it should also involve the boundaries and constraints that influence your deliverables. The boundaries can be something as simple as your budget or shortage of team members, or it can be something as intricate as a disruption in the global supply chain framework.

Always remember that no constraint is too big or too small because even the tiniest limitation can have an enormous impact on your project scope beyond your comprehension. There can be different types of project constraints. Some of them are listed as follows:

  • Budget: This is one of the most common limitations for any project and as long as you stay within the cost specified for a project, you are on track.

  • Time: In addition to budget, organizations also scramble with time limitations due to several factors like stakeholder conflicts, addition of tasks to to-do lists, etc.

  • Quality:There are also quality constraints during different stages of the project cycle. At times organizations fail to meet the quality of deliverables agreed on due to shortage of time or cost and this leads to client or customer dissatisfaction.

  • Resources:There are always times when project managers need resources sooner than expected, and they aren’t available and this leads to the risk of resource constraints.

#4 Define Deliverables

You have a project outline in place, your resources are all set, and the project constraints are also identified. The next step? When you ask us, we will say the next step is about defining deliverables. It is by far one of the most important steps in determining project scope. Here, you must outline what needs to be accomplished.

Brainstorm ideas with your team and work with relevant stakeholders to create a Work Breakdown Structure or (WBS0 that allows your project to be arranged into smaller, individual tasks. As a project manager, when you are defining the scope, ensure to include workflow methods and areas of efficiency in the WBS to visualize the scope and what’s needed to complete it.

#5 Get Buy-Ins

Most projects fail because managers don’t have everyone on the same page. This shouldn’t be the case for your project. If you want to prevent conflicts along the way, there’s always a way to get buy-ins from stakeholders. Before starting the work, ensure all components of the project are reviewed and approved by your stakeholders. This is your window for revisions to be included in the project scope, objectives, and constraints before the work begins, and the best part is that everyone stays atop the project goals and deliverables to alleviate scope creep and ensure a cohesive vision.

#6 Have a Change Control Process in Place

It’s high time project managers understand that no project scope is perfect. Yes, you can always have a project scope that’s perfect to the very last detail, but changes will likely need to be made. Teams crumble to their core because adapting to certain changes is no cakewalk. If you don’t want your stakeholders and team members to face the same, create a change control process that allows project managers to submit change requests to stakeholders.

What is a change management plan? Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. A change management plan is a process that guides project managers and contributors on how to make changes to an ongoing project. If you are handling a project and you don’t want anyone to jump in and make changes on the fly, having a change control process can be your saving grace. We all know that once a project is in the mill, you might run into issues or make discoveries that require change. In such circumstances, having a defined framework in place can ensure all the changes are approved or denied according to the accepted norms defined in the project scope.

#7 Share the Project Scope with the Team

Once you write the scope statement, define the project scope, and finalize it, share it with your project team and stakeholders. Always remember that the project scope should be in a place where it’s easily accessible to everyone on your team. Making the project scope accessible to everyone working on the project means they can refer whenever they need to and avoid any potential mistakes.

However, if you have multiple teams working on the same project, or for bigger projects, you can assign a scope reminder time or day in the schedule to ensure everyone understands it thoroughly and it is at the top of their minds. Undoubtedly, it can be overwhelming to notice that you are straying away from the project scope, but not noticing this at all can be worse.

Project Scope Template

Do you want to get started with defining the scope of your next project? Well, if you are still looking for a helping hand and a tad bit confused about what is project scope, how it works, or how to outline project scope, here’s a template that can serve as a guide for your comprehensive project scope document!

  1. Project Overview: InIn this section, you need to provide a brief overview of the project, including its purpose, goals, and objectives. Clearly state the need for the project and how it aligns with the organization's overall strategy.

  2. Project Objectives: List the specific objectives that the project aims to achieve. Ensure these objectives are measurable, realistic, and aligned with the overall project goals.

  3. Deliverables: Enumerate the tangible outcomes or products that the project will produce. Clearly define each deliverable and its expected features or specifications because this section serves as a foundation for project planning and resource allocation.

  4. Project Boundaries: Define the limits of the project by outlining what is included and excluded. Specify any constraints or restrictions that may impact the project, such as budget limitations, time constraints, or external dependencies.

  5. Stakeholders: Identify and list all stakeholders involved in the project. This includes project sponsors, team members, end-users, and any other individuals or groups working on the project. Clearly outline their roles and responsibilities.

  6. Assumptions: Document any assumptions made during project initiation that are believed to be true, but have not been validated. Recognizing assumptions helps in managing risks and uncertainties throughout the project.

  7. Constraints: List any limitations or restrictions that may affect the project. This could include budgetary constraints, time constraints, regulatory requirements, or technological limitations. Understanding these constraints is crucial for effective project planning.

  8. Acceptance Criteria: Establish the criteria that will be used to determine whether the project is completed. Clearly define the standards and expectations for each deliverable and overall project success.

  9. Project Timeline: Provide a high-level overview of the project timeline, including key milestones and deadlines. This section sets the initial expectations for project duration and helps in creating a realistic project schedule.

  10. Budget: Outline the estimated budget for the project, and this includes costs associated with resources, materials, and any other relevant expenses. A well-defined budget is crucial for financial planning and project control.

  11. Risk Management: Identify potential risks that may impact the project and outline strategies for risk mitigation and contingency planning. Having a proactive risk management approach ensures that risks are addressed before they become issues.

  12. Change Control: Establish a process for managing changes to the project scope. Define how change requests will be submitted, evaluated, and approved to prevent scope creep and maintain project focus.

Leverage Technology

Instead of relying on manual efforts blindly, you can also switch to automation. For instance, when you use resource scheduling software it can simplify workload distribution, resource allocation, and timesheet tasks. You don’t have to suffer the woes of manual errors and the best part is that the centralized database available in the resource scheduling software can act as your guide to plan who can work on what, what are your available resources, and what’s your project scope, scope statement or scope creep. Wondering how resource scheduling software from eResource Scheduler can help to define the project scope? Well, here you go!

  • Capacity Reporting: To outline their project scope precisely, organizations must be at the very nerve of resource availability. The capacity reporting feature of eRS enables project managers to get real-time insights into resource capacity and demand and have an overview of available roles and resources for upcoming projects. Having an accurate forecast of the available resources can make resource planning and management better for listing constraints.

  • Financial Modules: If you want a clear analysis of the financial aspects of your project for mapping out the cost, revenue, and profit insights, eRS can help you to define cost, and billing rates and generate detailed financial rates using scheduling data. With eResource Scheduler’s financial module, you can get a panoramic view of cost-revenue and profit data across client, project, and manager levels and witness the true impact of your resource allocation strategy on the overall budget.

  • Comparative Analysis: You can compare planned v/s actual data to compare your strategy and the real results effectively. With our planned v/s actual reporting, you can evaluate datasets side-by-side to scrutinize availability, and financial aspects and pinpoint disparities.

  • Built-in Timesheets: Gone are the days of error-prone manual timesheets because now, with eRS you can take advantage of granular rate definition and get the timeline view that showcases historical changes precisely. With an automation tool like eRS in place, you can track every second, minute, and hour spent by a resource on a project as well as non-project work. The built-in timesheets offer accurate time tracking and measure employee work hours, so you can monitor if the project scope is going just like you want it.

  • Color-coded Customized Entries: Along with timecards and built-in timesheets, you can also use eRS to differentiate between timesheet statuses with color-coded distinctions for the draft, approved, submitted, and rejected entries. This can be an excellent part of establishing your change control process and streamlining workflow processes. In addition, eRS also allows you to customize timesheet settings at any point and differentiate them, so you can identify gaps and pinpoint inefficiencies without any setbacks.


With the inception of hybrid working models and evolving customer and stakeholder demands, project management isn’t the same as before. If you want to streamline resource usage and maximize efficiency, feel free to leverage the insightful time-tracking reports and a centralized data pool offered by eRS that makes it easier than anything to define project scope. The software is intuitive, and you can use the informative approval screen as well as the drag-and-drop interface to shuffle between different entries seamlessly. Besides, you also get a 14-day trial period. Check out eResource Scheduler now, use it, and feel the difference it makes in outlining the scope of your project.

  1. Efficiency vs. Efficacy

    Merely being highly productive does not ensure the quality of the output. Efficiency, the act of accomplishing numerous tasks swiftly, is frequently confused with efficacy, which emphasizes completing tasks to a commendable standard. This means that a team might appear exceptionally productive, yet the results they yield may be subpar. If this resonates with your organization, it could signal an issue of overutilization.

  2. Overutilization

    Overutilization occurs when employees are assigned workloads surpassing their capacities, leading to overwork, neglect of breaks, and overtime.This often arises due to inadequate planning, compelling employees to rush tasks to meet deadlines. Consequently, a surplus of work is delivered swiftly but at the expense of quality.

  3. Escalated Burnout Risk:

    A common reason for employees to forgo lunch breaks is their overwhelming workload. They might fear that taking a break could disrupt their momentum, but this is a misconception. Whether it's eating at their desks, which is a habit observed in many millennial workers, hurried snack breaks, or altogether skipping meals, the long-term consequences on their physical and mental well-being are detrimental.Employees foregoing well-deserved breaks due to hefty workloads are hurtling towards burnout. This condition can manifest as fatigue at best and severe mental and physical ailments at worst. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that everyone in the workforce takes the necessary time to rest and rejuvenate.

Understanding Downtime in Productivity

Downtime in productivity refers to periods when employees or resources are not actively engaged in productive work due to various factors. These intervals can be planned or unplanned and are characterized by reduced or halted operational output. Planned downtime at work is a premeditated break in operations, often scheduled for maintenance, upgrades, or other essential tasks. For instance, a factory may shut down a production line for maintenance to ensure long-term efficiency. This type of downtime is anticipated and factored into production schedules.

Conversely, unplanned downtime is unexpected and typically results from unforeseen events like technical failures, power outages, or external disruptions. It can significantly disrupt workflow and cause financial losses. For example, a sudden server crash in an office can halt work until the issue is resolved.

Effectively managing downtime is crucial for maximizing productivity. This involves strategies like offering appointment scheduling to regulate customer flow, providing access to on-demand training during slow periods, and leveraging technology such as productivity software to streamline processes. Additionally, fostering a culture of creativity and innovation during downtime can lead to improved problem-solving and fresh perspectives. Ultimately, understanding and mitigating downtime is integral to maintaining a high level of operational efficiency and ensuring that resources are used optimally, even in less active periods.

Managing Downtime Effectively and Optimizing Business Productivity

Downtime, while often frustrating, presents a unique opportunity to enhance business productivity, especially during uncertain phases. Employing these five best practices, strategies and productivity software can help mitigate employee downtime within your organization.

  1. Provide Appointment Scheduling

    In industries with heavy foot traffic like retail and banking, offering appointment scheduling is a highly effective way to minimize downtime. Allowing customers to book dedicated time slots facilitates a smoother flow between busy and slow periods. This strategic allocation of appointments during off-peak hours counterbalances periods of reduced activity, ensuring a steady stream of engagement.

  2. Stay Informed with Industry News

    Utilizing downtime to stay updated with industry news and educational materials is a productive use of time. Actively seeking out recent news articles, press releases, and relevant newsletters enables employees to stay informed about developments in their field. Summarizing these findings and sharing them with colleagues builds a culture of continuous learning, enhancing the value each team member brings to the organization.

  3. Offer On-Demand Training Programs

    Unplanned downtime, whether due to technical issues or other unforeseen circumstances, can be transformed into an opportunity for skill development. Providing employees with access to on-demand training programs allows them to acquire new skills or deepen existing ones, enabling them to contribute more effectively when operations resume.

  4. Optimize Processes with Technology Integration

    Leveraging cutting-edge productivity software can streamline operations and maximize workforceproductivity. For instance, digital tools in manufacturing enhance efficiency, while retail analytics offer insights into customer traffic patterns. By adopting technology-driven solutions, organizations can direct their resources to areas where they can make the most significant impact.

  5. Encourage Creativity and Innovation

    Downtime provides an opportunity for employees to tap into their creative potential. Allowing minds to wander and recharge enhances concentration and creative problem-solving. Understanding that breakthroughs often occur when the mind is at rest, organizations can encourage short breaks during work tasks to stimulate fresh perspectives and ideas.

  6. Introduce Flexible Working Options

    Offering flexible work arrangements is pivotal in promoting employee satisfaction, productivity, and creativity. Initiatives like compressed working hours, no-contact hours, and meeting-free days empower teams to manage their time effectively. By allowing employees to align work with their natural rhythms and preferences, organizations foster a conducive environment for focused and productive work.

  7. Elevate Internal Communication Platforms

    Frontline employees, particularly those affected by downtime, benefit from robust communication channels. Mobile-first communication methods ensure that crucial information reaches employees on the devices they use daily. This is particularly vital when downtime is caused by network issues, enabling employees to continue serving customers seamlessly.

  8. Maintain an Agile Mindset

    Unplanned downtime is an inherent aspect of any industry. Maintaining an agile approach and having a robust business continuity plan in place equips organizations to navigate such situations seamlessly. Flexibility and adaptability are key attributes that enable businesses to respond effectively to downtime, minimizing disruptions and ensuring continuity. Therefore, effectively managing downtime is a critical aspect of optimizing productivity and efficiency within any organization. By implementing these strategies, businesses can transform downtime into an opportunity for growth, skill development, and enhanced productivity, even in the face of uncertainty. Embracing flexibility and proactively utilizing downtime will undoubtedly contribute to a more resilient and agile workplace.

eResource Scheduler – Top-Rated Productivity Software for Enhanced Productivity Management

For an all-encompassing solution to optimize resources, monitor productivity, and oversee project progress, eResource Scheduler stands out as a cutting-edge solution. Tailor the plan of this productivity software to match your business requirements and user count. This acclaimed tool empowers teams to meticulously track time and manage allocation across various tasks effectively, distinguishing between productive and non-productive activities. This feature proves especially valuable for teams working remotely, ensuring transparency and accountability. Enbraun offers a dedicated Account Manager to assist with tool configuration based on your company's specific needs. Experience the transformative impact on productivity management, scheduling, utilization, and resource optimization by exploring a free trial of this powerful tool. Try out this productivity software today by taking a free trial and transforming your resource utilization, scheduling and allocation, productivity management, and resource management processes.

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Marketing Consultant
Nikita Sharma
Nikita Sharma, an impassioned Marketing Consultant at eResource Scheduler, has been shaping the digital marketing landscape since January 2021. With a rich background in web development and digital marketing strategy, she's a beacon of innovation in the field. Nikita has achieved remarkable milestones, including reaching over 1 million social media users for the Jaipur International Film Festival and 3 million-plus SERP impressions for Enbraun Technologies. Her tenure at Nexa as a Digital Marketing Strategist in Dubai, certified by Google and Hubspot, underscores her profound expertise. Nikita's educational journey in Computer Science from Rajasthan Technical University and advanced programming courses have been pivotal in her career. She exemplifies dedication, creativity, and a deep understanding of digital trends, making significant impacts across diverse industries.

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