Product Scope and Project Scope

Projects are undertaken to deliver a product, service, or result. It will be difficult to achieve your objective if you don’t understand both the project and product scope. In project management, you will find many important concepts vital to complete your project with minimal obstacles. Among these terms and concepts, project scope and product scope stand out.

Project scope depends entirely on the product scope. You must understand the product scope to define the project scope. These are the most important concepts in project management. I have noticed that many professionals incorrectly use these terms synonymously.

I saw a related question posted in a PMP forum a few days ago. Someone was asking for clarification on the differences between project scope and product scope. There were many replies; however, some were incomplete, and a few of them were wrong. It seemed like the posters were more concerned with supporting their own opinions.

None of the answers met the asker’s expectations, and honestly, the query was left unanswered.

This is one of the main disadvantages of a forum: you cannot identify the correct answer. It is possible that you may accept any wrong answer that fits with what you already believe. Forums are good for reading lessons learned and other stories but not good for getting your technical questions clarified.

So, I decided to write a blog post on project scope and product scope.

Before starting the discussion, let’s make sure we understand the terms product, project, and scope.

What is a Product?

The PMBOK Guide sixth edition defines a product as an artifact or a quantifiable that can either be an end item in itself or a component item. These items are also called materials or goods.

In other words, a product is defined as a substance or article produced during a natural, chemical, or manufacturing process. You can characterize a product in many ways, such as by its physical properties and chemical properties.

For example, if a computer is the product, its characteristics are its processor, screen size, memory, and hard disk.

What is a Project?

According to the PMBOK Guide, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”

The first half of the definition says the nature of the project is temporary. This means that once you deliver the output, your project will cease to exist because you’ve achieved the objective.

The second half says that the project produces a deliverable. Projects are undertaken to produce a particular output, which can be tangible or intangible.

What is Scope?

A scope can be defined as the range, detail, or boundary of a term it is attached to. The word scope is not always standalone; it is used as a suffix or a prefix of another term.

If used with the term product, it means the details of the product, or when used with the project, it means the details of the project.

According to the PMBOK Guide, the scope is the sum of the products, services, and results to be provided as a project.

Product Scope

In short, product scope is about the product details; what the product will look like, how it will work, its features, and more.

According to the PMBOK Guide, sixth 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, and load strength. If the product is a cell phone, its product scope will be its screen size, battery backup, processor speed, camera type, and memory.

However, for services, the product scope will give you details on the tasks and responsibilities of the person who will deliver.

In the case of a result, the product scope can be the information required from the result.

How to Determine the Product Scope

Most of the time, the product scope is defined by the people who have higher levels of business expertise. Usually, a business analyst defines the product scope, and although the project manager can be consulted, their role is limited.

The business analyst will meet with every stakeholder to understand their expectations and requirements regarding the final product. Once these are finalized, the analyst will get them signed by stakeholders and then process them for approval.

Make sure that none of the requirements are left out during this process, as adding more towards the end of the project can be costly. A slight change in the product scope can cost you a lot more money than an initial change in the project scope statement. The product scope should be well defined because the project scope is defined according to the product scope.

The product scope is what binds you and your organization to the user who will use the product. You should make every effort to get these specifications exact and complete.

However, if you have a contract to deliver the product to the client, you will find the product scope attached to the contract document.

Project Scope

The project scope defines the requirements of the product and the work required to create it. This also defines what is inside and outside of the scope, which helps you avoid scope creep.

According to the PMBOK Guide, sixth edition, the 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 expected result and along with the constraints and assumptions. This helps in achieving the product scope. Project scope is also known as scope statement or statement of work.

If you are given a project to construct a bridge, the project scope will provide insight into how to build the bridge. It gives you all the required information. In this case, the project scope defines what exactly you need to construct the bridge. Nothing more.

How to Determine the Project Scope

The project manager defines the project scope, which depends on many factors.

For example, if you receive a firm-fixed-price contract, the client will give you a 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.

However, this isn’t always the case.  Let’s consider another case.

Your organization initiates a project, and you are the project manager.

In this case, you may have to build the project scope statement from scratch. You contact the concerned stakeholders to collect the requirements and compile them, and then you get them approved by management.

Likewise, there might be several factors that determine the project scope, such as the client asking you to do everything on their behalf.

A well-written scope statement makes the life of a project manager much more comfortable, and the project will be completed with fewer obstacles. 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 detailed. This document must be completed at an early stage of the project. An effective scope statement is necessary to guide a project to successful completion.

Determining the project scope is the first step in establishing the project’s schedule, budget, and resource allocation. Project management plans are made after the project scope is defined.

I hope that now you understand the 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 their requirements, such as the size of the building, number of rooms, details of the playground, number of toilets, and paint color.

You start working on the project. You estimate the budget, develop the plan, and create a 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 construction. You complete the school building and then verify with the client whether it is as per their requirements.

Once the client is satisfied, you hand the school building over to them, get the final payment, and the project is closed.

There are two parts to the above example.

In the first part, the client asks you to make a school building and gives you their requirements for it. The school building is the “product,” and the requirements are the “scope.” Therefore, the client gave you is the “product scope.”

In the second part, you construct the school building within the specified time and budget, meeting all the client’s requirements. Lastly, you deliver the product. In this part, the work you have done to construct the school building is the “project scope.”

How Product Scope and Project Scope are Monitored and Controlled

The most important tool to monitor the product scope is the requirement traceability matrix. This ensures that all features of the project are produced, thoroughly analyzed, reviewed, and approved throughout the project life cycle.

This also helps manage change in the product along with the configuration management plan.

Project scope is monitored and controlled using variance analysis.

The Difference Between Project Scope and Product Scope

These are a few differences between project scope and product scope:

  • Project scope is the work that delivers the product, while the product scope is the sum of all features, functions, and characteristics of the product.
  • Product scope is oriented towards the “what” (functional requirements), while project scope is oriented towards the “how” (work-related).
  • Product scope is defined by the business analyst, though the project manager may have a role. The project scope is totally defined by the project manager.
  • An example of the project scope is constructing a bridge, while its product scope might be its technical specifications such as length, width, and the amount of load it has to withstand.

Summary

Product scope and project scope are covered in the scope management knowledge area in the PMBOK Guide. The product scope is the end result of the project, and the project scope is how you are going to achieve it. The project is defined according to the product scope. These are fundamental terms, and you must understand them. To complete the project, you must achieve these two scopes successfully. Product scope is the characteristics of the product, and the project scope includes all the work you will do to make the product.

Project scope is discussed in-depth, while product scope is covered briefly as it is not in the scope of the PMP Certification Exam. You will see many questions on your test from this topic, so understand these concepts well.

You can enroll in our online PMP Training Program or PMP Exam Preparation Tool program to earn the 35 contact hours, learn about project management, and prepare for the PMP exam. Our programs will give you a unique learning experience that will help you pass the exam on your first attempt.

How do you manage product scope and project scope in your organization? Please share your experience through the comments section.