04. Define Scope

Overview: This task defines the scope of the project objectives. The scope statement must clearly say what the project is. A description of what the project is not is also important. Assumptions are an important component of this statement. Spell out valid assumptions. Cast out invalid false assumptions. A scope statement is a description used to control and focus the project efforts. The task of defining the scope in a statement provides an essential opportunity to clarify any potential scope issues.

Emphasis on the importance of selecting valid business assumptions is warranted. Jeffrey Pfeffer, PhD, and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, has emphasized the importance of testing business assumptions in several of his books and research publications. Untested assumptions can dramatically and erroneously steer an otherwise powerful business initiative off course.

Considerations: Well-defined projects have a higher probability of success of improving the business initiative. Several models and frameworks exist for defining scope, but one common framework is to define the scope of “people, process, and technology.”

Break down each category, defining scope in terms of the subcategories.

  • People might include: culture, capability, communication, roles/responsibility, reporting relationships, training, recognition systems, alignment, and compensation.
  • Process might be broken down into functional areas in the organization, or the standard supply chain might be used: buy, make, move, store, and sell.
  • Technology could be broken into mainframe hardware, communication equipment, operating systems, application programs, desktop technology.


Once the categories are identified, some categories will be useful for describing the scope and the other categories will be useful for describing aspects that are not relevant to the project – thereby out-of-scope. Clearly specifying the scope serves to communicate what a project is and is not. Who will feel like the scope is too broad and encroaching on their turf? Will executive management agree with the scope defined?


  • Identify the business process to be enhanced and the outcome to be achieved.
  • Identify the customer segments to be addressed, or the suppliers that are included within the scope.
  • Identify the assumptions. What resources are available? What kind of commitment is present? Identify the various levels of commitment and make prudent assessments of each.
  • Define what the change is. Use the project goals. What actions are required? What will be resisted? What will be embraced?
  • Define what the change is not. List confusing aspects of the project. List some things that others are expecting to happen.
  • List alternative ways to accomplish the objectives. Using this list, describe what the project is not.

Get business leader’s acknowledgement and draft formal memos.

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