In project management you will find many important concepts needed to complete the project successfully; however among these terms and concepts, project scope and product scope stand out from the crowed.
Projects are undertaken to deliver a product, and it will be difficult for you to achieve your objective if you don’t understand the project and product scope. These are the most widely used terms in project management.
Project scope is totally dependent on the product scope, and without a clear understanding of the product scope you cannot define the project scope.
You must understand product scope and project scope well to complete your project successfully
These are the most important concepts in project management. I have found that many professionals don’t understand these terms and use them synonymously.
A few days ago while searching on the Internet, I saw a similar question posted in a PMP forum.
Someone was asking to clarify the difference between project scope and product scope.
Many replies were there. Some of them were incomplete, and a few of them were vague. Most importantly, everybody was fighting to prove their answers.
This is one of the main disadvantages of a forum: you cannot identify the correct answer. It is also quite possible that you may accept any wrong answer that resonates with your thinking.
Forums are good for reading lessons learned and other stories, but not good for getting your technical doubts clarified.
Anyway, long story short, none of the answers met the participants’ expectations and the query was literally left unanswered.
Therefore, to answer this query I decided to write a blog post on project scope and product scope.
Okay, let’s get started.
Before starting the discussion, let’s have a quick look at the definitions of product, project and scope.
What is a Product?
As per the PMBOK Guide fifth edition, a product is an artifact, is quantifiable, and can be either an end item in itself or a component item. Additional words for products are materials and goods.
In other words, you can say that a product is a substance or article produced during a natural, chemical, or manufacturing process.
You can characterize a product in many ways such as physical properties and chemical properties.
For example, if the computer is the product, its characteristics will be its processor, screen size, memory and hard disk, etc.
What is a Project?
I have written a blog post on this.
According to the PMBOK Guide, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”
From the above definition, you can conclude that the nature of the project is temporary, and it is undertaken to produce a unique output; for example, a product, service, or a result.
The first point says the nature of the project is temporary. This means that once you deliver the deliverables (output of the project), your project will cease to exist because its objective has been achieved.
The second point says that the project produces an output. Projects are undertaken to produce a certain output.
The output can be tangible or intangible.
What is Scope?
Most of the time the word scope is not used as a standalone term; it is always used as a suffix or a prefix of any other term.
Scope can be defined as the range, detail, or a boundary of a term it is attached to.
If it is used with the term product it means the details of the product, and if it is attached to project then it means the details of the project.
As per the PMBOK Guide, the scope is the sum of the products, services, and results to be provided as a project.
This PMBOK definition is little complex and you may not be able to understand it at first. But don’t worry; once you finish this blog post you won’t have any problem deciphering it.
Now we come to the main point.
In short, product scope is about the product details. Product scope defines what the product will look like, how will it work, its features, etc.
According to the PMBOK Guide 5th edition, product scope is the features and functions that characterize a product, service or result.
For example, if the product is a bridge, the product scope might be its length, width, load strength, etc.
If the product is a cell phone, its product scope will be its screen size, battery backup, processor speed, camera type, memory, etc.
How to 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 get the product scope with the contract document.
However, if the project is initiated by your organization, you will have to define the product scope.
In this case you meet with all the stakeholders to find their expectations and requirements regarding the final product. Once the requirement and expectations are finalized you will get them signed by stakeholders and then get them approved.
This is an important step towards successful completion of your project.
If you miss any requirements your project may not be successfully completed, as adding additional requirements at the end is a very costly affair.
You should determine the product scope before preparing the project scope because to draft a project scope you must have a clearly defined product scope.
The product scope binds you and your organization to the user. You should make every effort to get these specifications clear and complete, 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 an initial change in the project scope statement.
The project scope is all about the project. It defines the requirements of the product and the work required to create the product. It also defines what is in the scope and whatnot, which helps you avoid scope creep.
According to the PMBOK Guide 5th edition, project scope is the work performed to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.
The project scope statement explains the results of your project and includes the constraints and assumptions as well. It helps you ensure that the product scope is achieved. Project scope is also known as scope statement or statement of the work.
For example, if you have been given a project to construct 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.
Project scope defines what exactly you need to do to construct the bridge, and not anything else.
How to Determine the Project Scope
Determining project scope depends on many factors.
For example, if you have received a firm fixed price contract, the client will give you a very well-defined product description, which helps you in developing the project scope statement. In this case you won’t have to worry too much about the project scope.
Let’s consider another case.
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 them, and then get them approved by the management.
Likewise, there might be many cases to determine the project scope, such as the client asking you to do everything on their behalf and they will just help you in determining their requirements.
A well written scope statement makes your life much easier and you can complete the project with fewer hurdles. Project scope is an agreement between you and the client or your organization.
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 completed at an 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’s schedule, budget, and resource allocation. Project management plans are created after the project scope is defined.
I hope now you understand product scope and project scope.
Now it is time to explain these concepts to you with our trademark school building example.
A Real World Example of Project Scope and Product Scope
You get a project to construct a school building. The client gives you his requirements, such as the size of the school building, number of rooms, details 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 gather the team and move on to the execution phase. You bring workers to the site and start constructing the school building. You complete the school building and then verify with the client whether the school building is as per his requirements.
Once the client 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). The 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 meet all the client’s requirements. Lastly, you deliver the product to the client. In this part, the work you have done to construct the school building is the “project scope”.
The Difference between Project Scope and Product Scope
The following are a few differences between project scope and product scope:
- Project scope is the work that delivers the product.
- Project scope refers to everything that needs to be done to get the product delivered, and product scope includes features, functions and characteristics of the product.
- Product scope is oriented towards the “what” part (functional requirements) and project scope is oriented towards the “how” part (work related).
- An example of a project is constructing a bridge, and its product scope might be its technical specifications such as length, width, amount of load it has to withstand, etc.
You must have a proper understanding of product and project scope before you start preparing for the PMP exam. These are very basic concepts and you must understand these terms. To successfully complete the project you must achieve these two scopes successfully. Product scope is the characteristics of the product and project scope includes all the work you will do to make the product.
This post was all about project scope and product scope. Here is where this blog post ends. If you have something to share, you can do through the comments section.