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3 Ways to Effectively Manage Project Scope


As a project manager, you will face an endless barrage of changes to your project’s plan. Unfortunately, some of these changes will result in delays, additional stretching of a finite budget, and problems. These changes in project scope are commonly referred to as project creep.

Without a proper understanding of how to effectively manage project scope, you could end up losing the project, spending more than you bring in, and disappointing shareholders. However, the key ways to manage project scope can be broken down into three categories. Take a look at how you can effectively manage project scope without negatively impacting the course of your project.

Understand All of the Project’s Requirements

Understanding the project’s requirements seems like a common part of project management. Yet, project managers often fail to understand what the requirements may entail. A project’s requirements may include a company vision, plans to decrease budget after X amount of time, or additional details outside of your scope. Unfortunately, these problems are not usually divulged at the time of planning.

To fully understand a project’s requirements, consider how the project will change. Does risk analysis reveal potential problems in the foundation of the project? If so, how will you react to the potential problem. Additionally, you must understand how small parts of the project may include additional details and tasks. For example, running a gas line from point A to point B requires labor and material cost. However, have you accounted for the cost of shutting down gas-service to the area for installing the new line?

Watch For Signs of Project Creep

Signs of project creep are subtle, yet shocking. The signs of project creep are not always evident, yet they always be around the corner. Effectively managing project scope means you must understand how a given set of circumstances may evolve into project creep.

For example, excessive requests for updates on completion percentage may indicate a need to speed the project along. Furthermore, executive-level changes in outsourcing capabilities may indicate fluctuations within the organization’s budget for the project. Alternatively, outsourcing roles may indicate the need to increase productivity. A project manager must always be vigilant for possible signs of trouble within the project.

Account For Changes in Scope Financially

When approached by executive-level leadership, it’s easy to fall into constant agreement about a project’s need to expand. Unfortunately, all involved members of the project management team rely on the initial budget for ensuring appropriate payment of services. Furthermore, an existing budget may already be nearing exhaustion, and effective management of project scope should always consider the financial impact of changes.

If the changes to a project will incur a cost above a predetermined amount, the project manager should be prepared to ask for an increase in budget. Sometimes, the resources will be unavailable; however, project managers cannot make this determination without asking for an increase.  

Regardless of your level of experience, your project is more likely to change than to stay the same in scope. However, you can effectively manage project scope by considering the factors in these three categories.

Key Takeaway

  • Read between the lines in the requirements of your project.
  • Watch for indicators of potential changes in project scope.
  • Do not always consent to changes. If you do agree to increases in scope, be ready to ask for an increase in budget. 

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