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Tuesday, 17 July 2007 14:56

Developing a Complete Project Scope Statement in 2 Days

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scopeThrough our experiences working with project teams in many industries on hundreds of projects, we come to recognize a common pattern. Although Project Managers and project teams understand the theory and value of developing a Project Scope Statement, many do not have workable tools, techniques or processes for creating a Scope Statement. We have encountered Project Managers who have attempted to write the Project Scope Statement on their own or assigned this effort to a team member. Often, they move forward with a scope statement completed by one person and then route this scope statement to other stakeholders seeking input, buy-in, or approval. This process can take weeks and usually results in missing portions of key information needed to effectively manage scope on the project. More alarming to the overall project success is that there is minimal if any real buy-in and alignment on the scope of the project. In this situation, Project Managers are faced with spending too much time throughout the project trying to identify and manage scope creep due to unclear and uncommunicated project boundaries.  The creation of a Project Scope Statement doesn’t need to be a daunting task. This paper illustrates how to build the scope statement while gaining alignment from all project stakeholders in as few as two (2) days. The alignment gained from this upfront scoping effort will form the foundation for success throughout the remainder of the project. The key to this dynamic activity is effective planning and execution of a Project Scope Facilitate Meeting, using collaborative JAD techniques, to build the necessary scope outputs for a project.

Scope Management  Project Scope Management involves ensuring all of the required work and only the required work necessary to complete the project is accomplished (PMI, 2004, p103).  Any work that does not support the needs of the project is Out Of Scope and should not be performed. This concept seems obvious, but unfortunately only 29% of projects are completed successfully. This means 71% of projects either fail outright or are “challenged” - completed over budget, behind schedule, or deliver fewer features and functions than the Customer expected (Standish Group, 2004).  The top 4 factors associated with project failures are:

  • Poor End-User / Customer Involvement
  • Poor Executive Management Support
  • Improper Planning
  • Unclear Statements of Requirements 

Use Of Facilitated Meetings  JAD (Joint Application Design) meetings can effectively address poor End-User / Customer involvement, poor executive management support and unclear statement of requirements by incorporating collaborative techniques. JAD meetings are led by a neutral Facilitator (i.e., someone without a stake in the project) to engage all the appropriate stakeholders as participants in a meeting to make project decisions and create project deliverables.  JAD meetings must be fully planned prior to conducting the meeting. Planning enables the project management team and the Facilitator to agree on the scope deliverables and activities that will be used for creating these deliverables in the meeting. A standard Planning Template and Facilitator’s Agenda can save time preparing for the meeting and creates consistency in the planning effort. We have built reusable Planning Templates for each type of meeting we conduct and use these as the basis for making adjustments during planning efforts with the client. Our Planning Template includes sections allowing to capture information and gain alignment on:       

  • Project Roles: Sponsor, Project Manager, Business Lead, Technical Lead, Facilitation Team       
  • Project Background: Why was the project created, what is it intended to accomplish (objectives), What has been done, if anything, to date on the project, are there any politics that might impact the success of the facilitated meeting
  • Project Deliverables: Have any deliverables been created yet and if so will the owners of these deliverables be available to for the meeting, list of deliverables that will be created during the meeting
  • Meeting Schedule: Agreement on the Agenda for the meeting 
  • Logistics: Meeting location, number of people, areas represented (are all needed areas represented in order to facilitate decision making during the meeting)
  • Follow Up Actions: What major actions / decisions need to be completed prior to walking into the meeting and conducting it. During the actual 2 day facilitated meeting, the Facilitator uses collaborative techniques to collect information, validate this information and continually adjust it to ensure it is clear, complete and addresses the needs of the project. We always gather information electronically in facilitated meetings using a 2 person facilitation model. This involves 2 skilled facilitators who share and swap roles of leading / managing the group dynamics and electronically capturing information that is displayed at the front of the room – (i.e., our Electronic Flip Chart). Capturing information in this manner increases the amount of alignment the participants walk out of the room with because they not only hear their ideas, they also read their own words and are able to process what has been said and adjust to say what they really meant. Many times people in the facilitated meetings read their own words and then say “That’s what I said, but it isn’t what I meant and I want to adjust it to say …”.  The results of facilitated JAD meetings are consensus among meeting participants, ownership, and buy-in on all decisions made and completed and documented deliverables produced and in the hands of the project team as they walk out the door.  

The Project Scope Statement Meeting The Project Scope Statement provides the documented basis for making all project decisions and is used to direct the project effort and communicate the project scope to the project team and other project stakeholders. Projects that do not have a Project Scope Statement are plagued with scope creep issues. When a project team creates a Project Scope Statement early in the project lifecycle, they define the boundaries of the project. The team understands the business need and the expected outcome of the project, recognizes constraints that will limit their options for developing a solution, are aware of assumptions regarding decisions outside their control, gain alignment on high level requirements, understand processes they are affecting, and recognize entities the project solution will interface with.  These tools allow the project manager, project team and stakeholders to make informed decisions on what is included within the boundaries of the project, as well as recognize when all of the requirements for the project have been identified and appropriate solutions defined.  The facilitated JAD Meeting to create a Project Scope Statement includes the creation of these scope deliverables:

  • Business and Project Objectives – Targeted changes in the business environment and specific in scope project efforts to work toward accomplishing these
  • Context Diagram Reflecting Business Processes Impacted and External Entities – High level picture and statement of the 5 – 7 major components being built or changed by the project and the interfaces that must be provided as part of the solution
  • Project Constraints – What will limit the solution we define or the way we run the project
  • Project Assumptions – Decision uncertainties believed to be correct that influence other work performed by the project team
  • Critical Success Factors – At a high level, what must be accomplished in order for the project to be considered a success
  • Proposed Product / Service Statement – Decisions regarding Buy, Build, Reuse, Evaluate – RFP, Phasing, Prototyping Additionally the JAD meeting produces a current business / system environment assessment known as a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). A SWOT analysis is developed after the creation of the Scope Statement using the Scope Statement as the focus of the analysis.    Defining Project Scope in a 2 day collaborative meeting provides many advantages to the project team.  Team building occurs as a result of working collaboratively to make decisions regarding the Project Scope Statement. This approach minimizes overlooking decisions, increases alignment on the project scope deliverables, and reduces confusion related to what ideas or decisions mean. When participants work together to create a realistic and achievable Project Scope Statement, team buy-in is achieved. In following articles I will address in more detail the creation of the specific Project Scope Deliverables created during the 2 day facilitated meeting engagement. 

Summary Utilizing facilitated meetings to leverage collaboration to develop any project deliverable can save project teams time and money enabling them to minimize missed or misunderstood project needs.  Organizations that currently do not utilize collaborative decision making techniques need to make the commitment a commitment to adopt this manner of decision making in order to be successful introducing the facilitated meeting concept. Management commitment is required for project teams to work effectively in a collaborative manner. Their support and approval is necessary to allocate the time needed to conduct and complete the meeting, and to reduce interruptions during the meeting caused by outside demands on the participants’ schedules.  Although a 2 day commitment to a Scope Definition meeting may appear to be a significant time commitment, the results produced through this collaborative effort save valuable project time by eliminating costly rework later. Organizations need to acquire or develop facilitation skills which allow JAD meetings to be successful.  Meetings that are led by a neutral skilled facilitator, versus an unskilled project team member, allow the participants to focus on content and make decisions for the project, during the meeting.  The Facilitator’s focus is on ensuring the appropriate processes are selected and followed, and participant interaction is effective. A great way to introduce collaborative meetings and JAD techniques into an organization is to prove the concept one project at a time, versus introducing these techniques across the board. Select a project with high visibility to the company, and implement the JAD meeting techniques. Once the project team experiences the success and time savings of this method, they become instrumental in promoting the concept to other project teams, encouraging the use of these collaborative techniques on their next project involvement.  


Project Management Institute. (2004) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) (2004 ed.).  Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. 

Standish Group. (2004) Chaos Report 2004.  Retrieved on March 10, 2006, from


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