Product Scope vs Project Scope

product scope vs project scope

The difference between the product scope and the project scope is one of the most important topics in the PMP exam. These two terms sometimes make many people perplexed and they find it difficult to distinguish between them.

A few days ago, I saw in a PMP forum someone asking for help understanding the difference between the project scope and product scope. He wanted to know what the project scope is, and what the product scope is. I also saw some replies; however, most of the replies were either incomplete or not up to the expectations of the enquirer.

Therefore, I decided to write a blog post on this topic, and now I’m writing it to explain the concept of project scope and product scope.

Okay, let’s get started.

Product Scope

Before we start digging deeper, let’s see that what the PMBOK Guide says about the product scope.

As per the PMBOK Guide 5th edition, the product scope is the features and functions that characterize product, service or result.

The product scope is all about the product itself. It means the product scope defines what the product will look like, how will it work, its features, etc.

For example, if the product is a bridge, the product scope might be its length, width, load strength, etc.

How do you Determine the Product Scope?

Most of the time, determining the product scope is not a difficult task. If you get a project through a contract, you will get the product scope with the contract. However, if the project is initiated by your organization, you will have to define the product scope after consulting with relevant stakeholders.

It is very important for you to determine the product scope before determining the project scope. You must have a clearly defined product scope in order to develop a well-defined project scope.

The product scope binds you and your organization to the client. You should make every effort to get this specification clear and complete from the client, otherwise you might face major issues in the later stages of the project. A slight change in the product scope can cost you a lot more money than a change in the project scope statement.

Project Scope

According to the PMBOK Guide 5th edition, the project scope is the work performed to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.

The project scope is all about the project. It defines the requirement of the product and the work required to create the product. It also defines what is in the scope and what not, because sometimes it is important to document what will not be done so people will not assume that certain things are to be executed which were not accounted for either in the budget or in the project schedule.

The project scope statement explains the result of your project and includes the constraints and assumptions under which you will have to work.

The project scope includes everything you need to do to ensure the product scope is achieved. The project scope is also known as scope statement or statement of the work.

For example, if you have been given a project to build a bridge, in this case the project scope will tell you how you are going to build the bridge. It gives you all the required information to construct the bridge.

The project scope defines what exactly you need to do to build the bridge, not anything else.

Once your project is completed, to verify that the project scope is completed, you will measure it against the project management plan with the client.

How do you Determine the Project Scope?

The answer to this question is: It depends.

For example, if you have gotten a firm fixed price contract, the client will give you a very well-defined product description, which helps you a lot in developing the project scope statement. In this case you wouldn’t have worry too much about the project scope.

Let’s consider another case. Here, your organization initiates a project and you have been authorized as a project manager. In this case, you may have to build the project scope statement from scratch. You will contact relevant stakeholders to collect the requirements and compile it, and then get it approved from the management.

Likewise, there might be many cases to determine the project scope, such as the client asking you to do everything on his behalf and he will just help you in determining his requirements.

A well written scope statement makes your life much easier and helps you complete the project with fewer hurdles. The project scope is an agreement between you and the client or your organization relating to the work of the project to the client’s or organization’s business objective.

The project scope binds you and your project team to your organization; therefore it should be very lucid and clear. You must try to get this document as detailed as possible and at a very early stage of the project. An effective scope statement is necessary to guide a project to a successful completion.

Determining the project scope is the first step in establishing the project, its schedule, budget, and resource allocation. Once you finish writing the project scope, you can make the plan, distribute tasks and guide your team so that you can complete the project on time, on budget, and deliver the product of the project.

I hope now you have understand the concept of the product scope and the project scope.

If not, don’t worry; keep on reading.

Now it is time to explain this to you with our trademark school building example.

You get a project to construct a school building. The client gives you his requirements, like the size of the school building, how many rooms it will have, the size of the playground, number of toilets, paint color, etc.

You start working on the project. You estimate the budget, develop the plan and create the schedule.

After developing and approving the plan, you will assemble the team and move on to the execution part. You bring workers to the site and start constructing the school building. You complete the construction of the school building and then verify with the client whether the school building is as per his requirements.

Once the client inspects and is satisfied with his requirements, you hand the school building over to him, get the final payment, and the project is closed.

In the above example there are two parts. In the first part, the client asks you to make a school building for him and gives you his requirements (characteristics). This school building is the “product” and his requirements are the “scope”. Therefore, what he gave you is, in fact, the “product scope”.

In the second part, you work to construct the school building within the given time and budget, and meeting all the client’s requirements by following the project management plans. Lastly, you deliver it to the client. In this part, what work you have done to construct the school building is the “project scope”.

The Difference Between the Project Scope and the Product Scope

The following are a few differences between the project scope and the product scope:

  • An example of a project can be constructing a bridge, and its product scope might be its technical specifications such as length, width, amount of load it has to withstand, etc.
  • The project scope is the work that delivers the product, and the product is the end result of the project.
  • The project scope refers to everything that needs to happen to get the product delivered, and the product scope includes features, functions and characteristics of the product.

Summary

You must have a proper understanding about the product and the project scope before you start preparing for the PMP exam. This is a very basic concept and you should have a proper understanding about these terms. A product is what you are expected to deliver to the client, and the product scope is its qualities, like what it looks like, its function and how it works. The product scope refers to all that needs to be addressed in order to create the product, and the project scope includes all the work you will do to make the product.

This was all about the project scope and the product scope. Now I believe that you can go into the PMP certification exam without any doubt regarding this topic.

image credit => adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    Related to the statement under Product Scope heading: “It is the outcome of the project”. ”
    This is very interpretable. Let me cite the PRINCE2 methodology manual “Managing successful projects with PRINCE2″ , page 21-22, on the outcome of the project:
    4.2.2 Outputs, outcomes and benefits
    In PRINCE2:
    • A project’s output is any of the project’s specialist products (whether tangible or
    intangible)
    • An outcome is the result of the change derived from using the project’s outputs
    • A benefit is the measurable improvement resulting from an outcome that is perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders.

    Example of output, outcome and benefits

    Output: New sales system
    Outcome: Sales orders are processed more
    quickly and accurately
    Benefits: Costs are reduced by 10%, volume
    of sales orders increased by 15% and revenue
    increased by 10% annually.

    Sincerely,

  2. Nakara Basuava Bappa says

    thanks for the details-
    Questions.1) – why it is important for pmp to learn about products management while exam is about project management?
    Questions.2) – can we have questions on product management in exams?
    Questions.3) – are you refering to PMbok3 or pmbok4?

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Answer. 1) As a project manager you should know about the product management in brief. Product management is not very important for the PMP exam.
      Answer.2) There is a very less chance that you will see a question about the product management in your PMP exam; however, be prepared.
      Answer.3) I am referring the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition.

    • says

      Let’s wait for PMBOK V 5, it is scheduled to be issued until this year’s end, there are some distinct modifications.
      Usually, it is recommended to learn a little bit more in the project management occupation, than the simple standard statements. In this way, project managers should take care that the product management lifecycle is longer and it includes the project management lifecycle during which the project’ related (output) product is conceived and delivered.

  3. Faisal Naik says

    How do we define the difference between

    Product Scope Verification and Project Scope Verification? Which Process groups each of them get verified in?

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Product scope verification will be performed under ‘Validate Scope’ process and ‘Close Project or Phase’ process.

      Output of ‘Validate Scope’ process is Accepted Deliverables, which is an input for the
      ‘Close Project or Phase’ process.

      Output of ‘Close Project or phase’ process is a ‘Final Product’.

      Regarding the Project Scope Verification, it is measured against the Project Management Plan.

  4. Alok says

    Hi Fahad,

    Thanks a lot for the explanation, it makes more sense now. Reading the example above it is evident that first the product scope should be clear and only then the PM can define the project scope. Once the product scope is clearly defined and we start with project scope or the statement of work (each company has its own defined way to lead it); would I be correct in thinking of the Project Scope to be a combined package of:
    -Project Plan
    - RACI or any equivalent document
    - Budget and Estimation sheet
    - Governance structure
    and the methods of creating a project scope can be a all stakeholders meeting (apologies if I am going tangential to the topic) but to make sure that I do it the correct way, I am trying to confirm my statement above and pick your brain at the same time. Thanks again for all the help :)

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