What is the Scope?

Smartpedia: Scope has many meanings. In terms of projects, it is the work that needs to be done to deliver a result with defined characteristics.

Scope – a Term with Different Meanings

There are various translations or different applications for the term scope. It is defined und used as

  • range,
  • frame,
  • possibility,
  • leeway,
  • area of application or
  • area of validity.¹

In the context of companies, scope is usually understood as

  • the range of the project,
  • the project object or
  • the extent of performance.


Scope - a term with different meanings

The Scope in Projects

The correct definition of what is to be implemented in the course of a project is an essential success factor for good project management. The PMBOK of the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines the scope of a project as “the work that must be done to deliver a product, service or result with the specified characteristics and functions”. The scope management comprises six processes:²

  • Plan Scope Management: Planning the process and creating a scope management plan.
  • Collect Requirements Definition and documentation of stakeholder requirements.
  • Define Scope: Develop a detailed description of the project scope.
  • Create Work Breakdown Structure: Subdivision of the project deliverables into smaller units of work.
  • Validate Scope: Formalise the acceptance of deliverables.
  • Control Scope: Monitoring the ongoing process and managing changes to the project scope.

Simply put, scope refers to the “what” is implemented in a project or development. And this “what” is determined by requirements.

The Importance of Requirements for Scope

Dealing with requirements is essential both for determining the extent of performance and for the actual development of products or services. Approaches and opinions on how best to deal with requirements vary.

The PMBOK, for example, defines various inputs, tools and techniques, as well as outputs. Inputs are

  • the scope management plan,
  • the requirements management plan,
  • the stakeholder management plan,
  • the project description and
  • the stakeholder register.

Tools and techniques mentioned are

The findings from these tools and techniques flow as outputs into the requirements documentation and the so-called requirements traceability matrix.

Basically, it can be said that many of these tools can provide valuable services in traditional projects. But what happens in more agile situations when reacting to changes becomes more important than following plans? It is hard to imagine anyone finding the time to maintain a requirements traceability matrix. In such situations, agile requirements engineering becomes much more important. But not in the form that tools or techniques are omitted, but rather that additional methods are added. This aspect is emphasised by the two certification standards of the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB): RE@Agile Primer and Advanced Level RE@Agile.

Of course, the extent of performance is also important in agile projects, but rather as a vision of a development and less as a concrete project object. Or in other words: the project object is defined and implemented cyclically, in short intervals. Transferred to Scrum, this means: the sprint goal manifests the scope of a sprint.

Terms in the Context of Scope

There are some terms that are often mentioned in the context of scope:

  • Scope creep: The increase in project scope after the start of the project due to uncontrolled changes without taking into account possible effects on deadlines, costs or staff utilisation. In practice, such an expansion often occurs insidiously, e.g. in long-running projects or lack of stakeholder involvement in decisions.
  • Requirement creep: The realisation of requirements that were not documented in an agreed specification.
  • Function Creep: The use of technology or systems beyond their original purpose, especially when the new purpose leads to a breach of privacy.
  • Feature Creep: The constant addition of new features to a product that inflate the scope without providing any real added value.  Alternatively, it is also referred to as bloatware.
  • Scope Leap: The shifting of an organisation’s strategic focus or tactical direction, resulting in a completely changing project scope.
  • Scope Grope: An undefined project scope, for example as a result of a team’s inability to articulate requirements. Rough ideas become “scope drifters”, “productivity spoilers” or “promises stealers”

The number of related terms alone shows that working with project scope sounds easier in theory than it is in practice.

Impulse to discuss:

Can the extent of performance be visualised in a Gantt chart?


Companies try to exploit production and cost advantages by using common production factors (machines, processes, labour, locations, etc.) in the manufacture of goods. This results in so-called economies of scope.

[1] Translations from the PONS Dictionary
[2] PMBOK Sixth Edition
[3] Preventing Scope Creep, Grope and Leap from Killing Your Projects

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