Project Scope

The scope is what the project contains or delivers.

When starting to plan the scope of the project think about the BIG PICTURE first!  At this level it is best to concentrate on the major deliverables and not get bogged down with detail.

It is just as important to agree on what is OUT OF SCOPE as it is to define what is IN SCOPE as stakeholders will often have different ideas regarding what is supposed to be IN the project and what IS NOT.  Obtain agreement up front to avoid unnecessary disputes later on.


A project for which the objective is to collect and publish course information by the beginning of the next academic year:

IN Scope

OUT of scope

Assumptions/ Constraints


Details of all courses offered by the Faculty

Details of courses from other Faculties.

Details of courses not approved by September of this year.

Details of courses offered by the Faculty are available at the required level of detail

It will be difficult to obtain course details from all Course Directors on time for the project to be completed within the required timeframe.

This is a useful task to conduct with key stakeholders and can help clarify issues at any time in the Initiation or Planning phases. Generally speaking assumptions and constraints will generate risks to the project that must be managed.

During this process issues may not be resolved to the agreement of all key stakeholders at one meeting. Any unresolved issues should be noted at the end of the document for elevation to top priority for discussion at subsequent meetings until resolution is achieved.


The linked Broad Scope template will assist you to define what is IN and what is OUT of the project.

Scope Definition

This is where we get down to detail!  It provides the detailed information for the Scope Plan, often called the Scope Definition document. It provides the basis for estimating cost, time and resources, performance measurement and responsibilities.

Generally the Scope Definition document is presented in list format but development of the document requires some brainstorming activities that are best done with the key stakeholders and the project team involved using some simple tools like "sticky" notes on the wall.

The most useful tool is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Defining the project scope involves brainstorming all the tasks or activities needed to deliver the project. The project is subdivided into interim deliverables and the activities or tasks needed to deliver each one are listed below.  

The example below is a WBS for production of a book. Note that in this case the major deliverables are also the project phases.

Work Breakdown Structure Example 1

The major deliverables (second top row of the WBS) could also be intermediate products of the project, all of which are put together at the end to deliver the project as a whole. The Work Breakdown Structure for a conference is such an example.  The rule is - use whatever method feels most appropriate at the time.

Work Breakdown Structure Example 2

The sequence of events does not matter when creating a Work Breakdown Structure.  The most important aspect is to make sure that all the necessary activities have been included, including management activities, such as meetings and approvals.

The development of the WBS depends on the progressive breaking down of the project into units of work. It identifies all the pieces of work that need to be undertaken to complete the project. Each unit of work should be measurable in terms of cost, effort, resource and time.


There is no template provided for a work breakdown structure.  The preferable technique is to do the task collaboratively with your key stakeholders and project team with "sticky" notes.  This achieves "buy-in" by stakeholders and team members and reduces the likelihood of omitting key tasks!

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