Knowing how to write a project scope document is a critical skill for project managers. A project scope document can be the difference between a successful project and one that gets dragged down by scope creep.
Scope creep is when your project’s requirements slowly expand throughout the project, while the schedule and budget don’t change to reflect this growth. According to a survey conducted by PMI (Project Management Institute), over half of all projects experience scope creep.
It should be noted that there is a difference between scope creep and gold plating. In gold plating, requirements can stay the same, but work input goes beyond the point of diminishing returns.
Without a project scope document, it’s challenging to ensure your project's scope doesn’t balloon, causing increased expenses and the risk of missed deadlines. Read on to discover how to write a project scope document that will properly define your project scope and protect against overwhelming creep.
What is a project scope document?
The project scope document, often called a statement of work (SOW), records all these features, functions, and requirements that stakeholders expect from the project. It’s the part of the project plan that outlines what work must be done for the project.
If something is not defined in the project scope document, then it is considered out of scope. For instance, if there’s a new feature you want to add, but it’s not in the scope of work document, then it’s out of scope, and tacking it on as a requirement would result in scope creep.
Why do you need a project scope document?
A key step in scope management is the creation of the project scope document. It acts as a record of what was agreed to, so there is no confusion throughout the project. Without this record, people have to rely on their memories to recall what was agreed to.
A project scope document helps protect your team from over- or under-delivering. Without one, key functions could be overlooked or omitted from the project. The customer could also ask for additional features. Without a project scope document, you and your team will lack the documentation to support the fact that what they’re asking for is out of scope and will require more time and money to incorporate.
Ultimately, a project scope document helps ensure everyone is on the same page about what will and won’t be delivered as part of the project. You can find a scope statement template to begin the process of creating your own project scope document.
Who writes a project scope document?
The project manager is generally responsible for writing the project scope document. This document requires input from the customer and any major stakeholders, including end-users, project sponsors, subject matter experts, and others.
Since the document requires bringing together the needs, wants, and views of multiple diverse groups, the project manager is in the best position to accomplish it.
How to write a scope of work document
Here are three steps for how to write a project scope document:
Step 1: Create your template
Several standard elements should be included in every scope of work document. By creating a standard template, you’ll save yourself time while ensuring your documents are always consistent, and nothing is missed.
Here are the key sections you should include in your template:
- Business case: This is the reason for the project and includes the end goals you hope to achieve.
- Project deliverables: A description of all deliverables that will be provided to the customer.
- Acceptance criteria: This is a list of criteria the deliverables must meet for the customer to accept them.
- Constraints: Constraints are limitations on the project, such as a lack of time or money. If you’re required to use a certain process or follow set guidelines, these may be constraints.
- Assumptions: Often, at the beginning of a project, there are still many unknowns. Anything you have to guess at should be stated here as an assumption.
- Exclusions: This section covers anything you want to clarify that is out of scope and will not be included in the project.
- Agreement: So there’s no question as to whether your key stakeholders agreed to the scope, you should have them review and sign the document.
Step 2: Gather your team
Your scope of work document should never be completed in isolation. Once you have your template, it’s time to bring together your project team, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders to brainstorm requirements.
Try to include as much detail as possible. You don’t want any statements to be vague, or people may interpret them differently. Avoid using jargon and terms that readers may not understand. If multiple stakeholders have conflicting requests, it’s important to find a suitable compromise and document it, so there’s no question later.
Step 3: Be clear and concise
When drafting your document, remember to keep things clear and easy to understand. Detail is important, but not at the expense of readability and coherence. The longer your document, the longer the approval process will take, and the more your project will be impacted. Ensure that your document includes all the necessary information, and don't be vague about requirements, deadlines, etc. The best way to success is to be clear about expectations, so both you and your client are happy with the result.
Step 4: Finalize the document
Once you’ve created your document, it’s time to send it to your customer for the final sign-off. This should happen before you complete your project plan and start executing the project. Otherwise, your team could start working only to discover a requirement is wrong, and they need to start over.
Once the document is signed, make sure you store it somewhere secure and easily accessible in case scope-related questions come up throughout the project.
Create the perfect project scope document with Wrike
Wrike’s project management software can help you create the perfect project scope document every time. You can create and store your template and completed scope documents directly in the software. As you create your new scope of work document, team members can leave comments and make suggestions in Wrike. Plus, you can use Wrike's proofing tools to send the draft document to your customer for review and approval. Sign up now for our free 14-day trial and discover how Wrike helps improve your projects!