Project scope statement

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Developed by Ína Salome Sturludóttir



Defining a project scope statement is an essential part of any project. It is an output of the define scope process and used to identify the main deliverables of a project along with the key milestones, boundaries, constraints, and assumptions. This statement documents also the responsibilities of each member of the project team and procedures for verifications and approves of completed work. Both the project team and all of the stakeholders have to agree with all of the terms suggested in the scope statement before the actual project work begins.[1] (p.123) Even though the project scope statement is supposed to head the project in the right direction the situation can change as the project progresses. The changed situation has to be assessed on all aspects of the project and necessary changes have to be proposed to the project scope statement and verified. The scope statement needs to be adjusted if the changes are approved.[2] A well-written scope statement is an important part to achieve a successful project and the six main aspects which a good statement should include are a product scope description, acceptance criteria, deliverables, project exclusion, constraints, and assumptions.[1] (p.123-124) These aspects will be discussed in more details in the following article, along with general guidelines of how to write a project statement and at last, the limitations of writing a project scope statement will be discussed.


Project Scope Management

Figure 1: Project scope management processes and their tasks, with guidance from the PMBOK® Guide [1]

As outlined in the abstract, the project scope statement is an output of the defined scope process, which is a part of the project scope management process. The project scope management process refers to the set of processes required to ensure that a project includes all the necessary work, and just the amount of work necessary, to successfully complete a project. It is primarily concerned with defining and controlling what is or what is not a part of the project. Therefore the project scope can be defined as the work that must be done to deliver a product with the specified features and functions, according to the PMBOK® Guide.[1] (p.51) In Figure 1 the six major processes of the project scope management can be seen and their tasks description.

Each of these six processes interacts with each other and they usually affect each other in a sequentially way. The first process in the project scope management is the planned scope management process. This process formally authorizes a new project and creates the scope management plan that records how the scope of the project will be managed. The planned scope management process influences the defined scope process, which develops the project scope statement, by linking the output of it to the input of the define scope process. Between these processes is an important process which is referred to as collecting requirements process. The collecting requirements process determines, documents and manages the project requirements that reflect on stakeholders needs to meet project objectives. These requirements selected to be part of the scope baseline are generally decided by the project governance, the project sponsor, the project management team, the project's customer and inputs from different stakeholders, who are considered to be important.[1]

The identification process of who the project stakeholders are is an important early step in the scope planning. Project stakeholders can consist of individuals or organizations that are actively involved in the project or if their interests may be affected by the project. These stakeholders can be, for instance, sponsors, customers, suppliers, and shareholders.[3] (p.6-7) It is important for the project manager of a project to set proper expectations with their stakeholders at the beginning, to ensure that no misunderstandings can occur later on. These expectations can be about how the requirements or the scope of the project is managed, controlled and verified and these expectations are one of the elements in the project scope statement that needs to be well defined.[1] The documentation of the requirements will be discussed further in the next section of the define scope process where it is an input and an essential element of the involvement of establishing the project scope statement.

Define Scope

The define scope process is the third process of the project scope management and it consists of developing a detailed description of the project. The main benefits of establishing the detailed description are that it provides a basis for making future project decisions and develops and confirms a common understanding of the project scope among the stakeholders. In addition to containing an accurate description of the project, it also includes which of the requirements from the requirement document, developed in the collect requirement process, are selected to be the final requirements of the project scope.[2] To select and decide what is suppose to be part of the project description or the project scope statement, are different management tools and techniques applied. These tools and techniques are differently balanced since each project is unique and the scope of a project can be differently planned. By applying these tools and techniques the project team and the stakeholders also gain a better understanding of the project. In the define scope process, the initial inputs are the scope management plan, the project charter, the requirements documentation and the organizational process assets. The tools and techniques which are applied to the process are the expert judgment, product analysis, alternatives generation and the facilitated workshops. These inputs, tool, and techniques are illustrated in the process flow of the define scope process in Figure 2 and defined here below in a detailed explanation of each aspect, along with the outputs of the process, the project scope statement and the project documents updates.[1] The project scope statement will then be further clarified in the next section where the characteristics of what is needed to be included in a well-written project scope statement are discussed.

Figure 2: Inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of the define scope process, with guidance from the PMBOK® Guide [1]

The following aspects are the inputs to the define scope process, as they appear in the PMBOK® Guide:

  1. Scope management plan - Establishes the activities for defining, developing, monitoring, controlling and verifying the scope of the project. These activities include, for example, preparing an accurate project scope statement, organize how the work breakdown structure (WBS) will be created and then accepted, and controlling how the change requests to the project scope statement will be managed.[1] (p.109)
  2. Project charter - Provides formal authorization of the project, describes the characteristics of the project and outlines the project objectives. It is a framework for the project and connects the project manager, the project team and the key stakeholders together at the beginning.[1] (p.71)
  3. Requirements documentation - This document provides all of the requirements needed to produce the final result in the project and is used to select the main requirements that will be included in the project scope statement. These requirements need to be measurable, traceable, consistent and acceptable to the stakeholders.[4] [1] (p.117)
  4. Organizational process assets - They can have a big impact when the scope is defined and are divided into two categories. The first category is the process and procedures for conducting work, which includes policies, procedures, a standard template for the project scope statement and general guidelines. The second category is the corporate knowledge base for storing and retrieving information, which includes risk register, lesson learned, stakeholder register, past project files and historical information.[1] (p.122)

The following aspects are the tools and techniques applied in the define scope process, as they appear in the PMBOK® Guide:

  1. Expert judgment - Is a technique in which judgment is made based on a certain set of criteria and expertise that has been acquired in a certain knowledge part or project part. This expertise can be provided by any person or group with specialized knowledge, skill or education, such as consultants, stakeholders, and industry groups.[5]
  2. Product analysis - Involves in examining some of the product features, if the project delivers a product at the end, and includes techniques such as product breakdown, analysis systems engineering, value engineering, value analysis, function analysis and quality function deployment.[1] (p.122)
  3. Alternatives generation - The alternative identification technique is an evaluation of different choices available to achieve a particular project management objective, they are general management techniques, for example, brainstorming and Delphi technique.[1] (p.123)
  4. Facilitated workshops - Efficient and effective way of achieving a goal or an objective of the project, by bringing the key players together and participant in a meeting which enables people to interact in a group.[6]

The following aspects are the outputs of the define scope process, as they appear in the PMBOK® Guide:

  1. Project scope statement - A document that covers the entire scope of the project.
  2. Project documents updates - Documents that can be updated and are part of the project scope management process, for example, the stakeholder register and the requirements documentation.[1] (p.125)

Practical Guidelines

The project scope statement can be developed into different forms of template depending on the characteristics of the project executed and the distinguishing features of the organization. The scale and the complexity of the project may be different, but the more accurate the statement will be the better clarity it will provide about what the project will deliver.[4] The person who is responsible or in charge of writing the project scope statement is the project manager. His or her primary task is to gather the requirements, prepare the list of deliverables and formulate the constraints and assumptions. The project team members participate in those tasks but they are usually not part of approving the project scope statement. Other important participants in developing and creating the project scope statement are the clients or the project sponsor, the stakeholders and the suppliers, their input can have a significant influence on its creation. The project scope statement is considered to be an official agreement, both among the stakeholders and the project team, and all of the terms in it needs to be accepted by the key players before the real project begins. A well-written project scope statement should include a clear identification of the project's deliverables, the work necessary to successfully deliver them and also the work that is not necessary. It should as well include a description of the product or service, the key milestones, the constraints and the assumptions of the project. The project scope statement is used as a guide throughout the project process for the project team where it sets a baseline for the project scope. The scope baseline is used to evaluate all the change requests, which is an effective way to control a scope creep. In addition to being a useful guide and setting the baseline to evaluate changes, the project scope statement is helpful to make a common understanding of the project among the stakeholders. By setting appropriated expectations along with the stakeholders, no confusion between the project team and the stakeholders can appear. It can also represent a communication tool when the project needs to be presented to the higher set of managers or other departments.[7] [1]

Writing a project scope statement can sometimes be an overwhelming and time-consuming task, but most important thing when writing a project scope statement is being Specific. First, choose a very concise name for the project. Second, write a clear description of the project deliverables and use simple language expression. Be precise when the project will be complete, that it is Measurable. Beware of if the project is Achievable, that the project can be accomplished with the existing resources and the right skilled people. Keep in mind or be sensible about what can be achieved or expected in the project process, be Realistic. Lastly, know the timeline of the project, in what Time has the project to be finished. These criteria are good to take into consideration when the project scope statement is written and they are known guidance in the project management process, their acronym is SMART.[8]

According to the PMBOK® Guide, the definition of a good project scope statement, which is capable to deliver a successful project, need to consist of six main aspects. These aspects are the product scope description, the acceptance criteria, the deliverables, the project exclusion, the constraints, and the assumptions.[1] (p.123 - 124) By implementing these aspects into the project scope statement are everyone who participates in the project process aware of what falls within the project scope. These aspects also structure the baseline for determining how to manage the rest of activities in the project process.[9] The six main aspects are explained here below in details.

  • Product scope description - Identifies all the characteristics of the outcome of the project, the product or the service. It is a detailed description of the project scope elaborated from the project charter and the requirements documentation.[1] (p.123)
  • Acceptance criteria - Requirements that need to be met before the project deliverables are accepted. They are decided together by the project team and the key stakeholders and are applied to verify the scope, to evaluate deliverables and to confirm completion. It is crucial to have accurate acceptance criteria in order for key players agreeing on that deliverables has met the requirements.[9]
  • Deliverable - A unique and verifiable product or service which is a small part of the overall project scope. The deliverables need to be listed in the project scope statement and this list will make it clear to the stakeholders what can be expected, throughout the project and at the end of it.[9]
  • Project exclusion - List of elements that are identified or confirmed to be excluded from the project. It states what is not part of the project and it manages stakeholders' expectations.[1] (p.124)
  • Constraints - Limitations or restrictions that affect carrying out the project. The constraints can cover a lot of areas but the three main constraints that are considered important and can have a big influence on every project are the time, resources and quality. Every constraint considered affecting the project should be listed in the project scope statement and further defined there.[10]
  • Assumptions - An element in the project process that is assumed to be true or certain, without proof. Information about the assumptions should be listed in the project scope statement along with their potential impact if they turn out to be false. The project team should identify, verify and validate the assumptions throughout the project process.[11]

By identifying and documenting these aspects of a project into the project scope statement, the project manager and his team manage to keep track of the progress of the project. It is difficult for every project manager and project team to realize all of the project boundaries when writing the project scope statement, but they need to be aware that change and risk can occur at any time in the project process. If a change occurs in any process of the project it needs to be assessed on all aspects of the project scope statement and then adjusted to the project scope statement if it is approved. If the change is not assessed and not controlled in time it can become harmful to the project and lead to scope creep.[3] (p.141) Scope creep is a subtle process that begins with minor adjustments and ends up resulting in project delay or in cost overrun. It is considered to be a risk in most projects and is one of the most common causes of project failure.[12] Therefore, it is important for the project manager and project team to handle the change and write a good baseline in the project scope statement about how to control changes to deliver a successful project.


The method described above about how to write a good project scope statement may look like a simple and easy way to follow. However, in real life, the project scope statement can be quite complicated to write. Nobody can predict the future, so defining the project scope and document all of the aspect of the project scope statement can be a difficult task. The main limitation though of writing a project scope statement is agreeing on what should be included in it. The persons who are involved in writing the project scope statement can have different opinions on many things and have disagreements about many aspects of the project. This can have a great impact on how to decide what should be included in the project scope statement and can delay the whole process. But with clear communication and a good project management skills, everyone should be able to work together and come to a conclusion about what should be included in the project scope statement and what should be avoided. Good teamwork is also essential in developing and writing the project scope statement to deliver an efficient work and project scope statement.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 William R. Duncan. (2013). A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). 5th ed. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Margaret Rouse. (January 2018). Project scope. [online].Available at:
  3. 3.0 3.1 Danish Standards Foundation. (2012). International Standard ISO 21500 - Guidance on project management. København: Danish Standards Foundation.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adrienne Watt. (2014). Project Management. B.C. Open Textbook Project.
  5. Mauro Sotille. (September 2016). Expert Judgment. [online].Available at:
  6. DSDM Atern Handbook. (2008). Facilitated Workshops. [online].Available at:
  7. Burek, P. (2006). Developing a complete project scope statement in 2 days. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
  8. Duncan Haughey. (2014). A Brief History of SMART Goals. Available at:
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 SkillBrief. (2016). Project Scope Statement. Available at:
  10. Project Management Tips. (June 2011). Defining Project Constraints. Available at:
  11. Project Management Tips. (June 2011). Defining Project Assumptions. Available at:
  12. Asadullah Khan. (6th of June, 2016). Project Scope Management. AACE International.


Adrienne Watt (2014). B.C. Open Textbook Project. Project Management. Covers the basic concept of project management. Chapter 9 focus on the scope planning and describes the processes that need to be performed to develop the project scope statement. It also gives a detailed insight of all possible requirements that must be met in a project and categorizes them.

Asadullah Khan. AACE International. Project Scope Management. A technical article published 6th of June in 2016. The author of this article, Asadullah Khan, has 13 years of experience in project engineering and management. In this article, he illustrates how managing the scope of a project is the most important thing to deliver a successful project. The key project scope management processes are defined and the concept scope creep is discussed.

Project Management Institute (2013). A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), 5th edition. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge provides guidelines for managing individual projects from the first step to the last. Each chapter is devoted to a specific process in the project process cycle and gives a good information regarding the management methods that can be used to define the scope, planning the project and control changes. Furthermore, it provides a good overview on how the project scope statement is structured and what needs to be included in a well-written one.

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