The Process for Scoping a Project

Whilst recently facilitating the development of a project plan, I was asked by one of the Subject Matter Experts if there was a standard checklist for scoping projects. Project Managers should use a guided enquiry approach to ensuring a project is scoped well. Although there is no universal checklist for all projects, there are processes and questions that should be used when beginning projects. The ones I have listed below are essential for all projects but, this list is not exhaustive and can be utilised depending on the type of project you are involved in. I thought I would post the advice I gave for comment.


Process – Stage 1 Initiation


Define the purpose.

The first part of any project is to confirm why we are doing the project. This begins with a guided enquiry to find out the rational for the project. We usually ask the following three questions;

  1. Is there a goal or objective to be met?
  2. Is there a problem to be rectified?
  3. Is there an opportunity we can take advantage of?

There may be other reasons for doing projects, but three questions is sufficient to discover why the project is being attempted.


List the outcomes

Our enquiry continues by uncovering the expected benefits that will be achieved by the project. Our focus currently is to determine what we expect to gain from the project and what those gains look like. Mind mapping the benefits or asking stakeholders to list the outcomes they expect from the finished project, assists in identifying benefits.


Performance criteria

Delving deeper into the expected gains, we need to decide what does success look like. Once we have determined the benefits, we need to establish the performance criteria for those benefits. Then we need to decide how we will measure those criteria. After, we can assess our results to determine if we have achieved the benefits we were expecting. To gain a clearer picture ask the following questions;

  1. What is the benefit we expect to gain?
  2. How can this benefit be measured?
  3. What does success look like?
  4. Will the value of the expected benefit exceed the cost involved in gaining it?
  5. How can this benefit be analysed and reported on?


Scoping Statement

This statement of one or two sentences gives us a clear description of what the project is. It needs to be very clear to give everyone involved in the project a focal point that they call to refer back to. Essentially, it tells us what we are doing.



Having described the big picture of the project, we need to list the components that make up the project. It is important at this stage that end-users as well as senior management personnel, are engaged in this part of the process to ensure that the constituent parts of the project are listed. The achievement of most of these deliverables will be the responsibility of the project team. These are referred to as inclusions. However, some deliverables are part of another project or program, and these must be identified because they will impact the project. These are referred to as exclusions.



It is necessary to list project-related assumptions so that project team members are aware of what things are expected to be ready or available. Assumptions in projects generate risks that may need to be mitigated. Everyone must be aware of these assumptions and the risks associated with them. All identified risks need to be recorded and analysed. A risk mitigation process must be developed for each risk with a designated person made responsible for each risk.



It is also important to list any constraints related to the project. Constraints that may be incurred can relate to scope, quality, cost, time, procurement, resourcing and other project factors. These constraints need to be identified as they can impact the execution of the project.



Identifying stakeholders including what communication is required and how it will be conducted is extremely important. This is the beginning of the communications plan. Stakeholders can be identified by asking the following questions;

  1. Who pays for the project? (This can include but is not limited to sponsors, funders, lenders, and co-contributors).
  2. Who benefits from the project? (These are usually identified when conducting your benefit mapping exercise).
  3. Who is impacted by the project? (Projects bring about change, this change often impacts those who may not benefit from the project).
  4. Who governs or regulates the project? (Projects may have to meet, safety, environmental, policy, and other criteria. Usually, there is a regulator who is responsible for ensuring that appropriate standards are met).


Once stakeholders have been identified, the information to be sent to these stakeholders should be determined based on;

  1. Importance
  2. Content
  3. Frequency
  4. Method of Delivery


This becomes the basis of your communications plan.

Hope this is of value.



Wayne Greenwood