What Is Out of Scope? (And How to Avoid It in Projects)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Something is out of scope if it goes beyond the parameters set for a project or program. On the most basic level, scope defines what is part of the project and what is not. Anything that is not part of the project is out of scope. In this article, we explain how project scope is defined and explore the meaning of 'out of scope'.

Related: How to Write a Project Scope Document

What is out of scope?

In project management, 'out of scope' refers to anything that is unrelated to a project's specific goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines. The project scope is defined in a 'scope statement' or 'terms of reference' document, which is drafted during the project planning stage. The scope statement specifies the project's tasks, deliverables and objectives. If a customer later requests an additional function or service that is beyond the budget and the established tasks and deliverables, these things are considered to be 'out of scope.'

Contents of a scope statement

A scope statement is an official document that contains all the details necessary to complete the project and achieve its goals. It is more detailed than a statement of work, and it keeps the project team focused on pre-defined objectives. The scope statement also offers recommendations about how to make change requests to the project manager during the project. Here are some aspects of a scope statement:

  • Introduction: This states the objectives of a project and the expected outcomes. It might also define the activities to be undertaken.

  • The scope of the project: This section defines the project's requirements. It outlines the project's overall objectives, activities and timeline and whether any special experts will be working on the project.

  • Deliverables: The deliverables section outlines the results of the project and expectations after project completion. It may also outline the activity requirements to make sure that sub-projects are completed on time.

  • Acceptance criteria: This section outlines the project's goals and objectives. It also defines how the attainment of these objectives will be measured.

  • Exclusions: This section explains what the project might not cover. For instance, if the project does not require visuals to accompany published articles.

  • Constraints: This section outlines the project's complex restrictions and aspects that are unchangeable. Project restrictions can include challenges related to the project timetable, finances or technical requirements.

Related: 18 Principles of Project Management (With Explanations)

What causes a project to become out of scope?

When new elements or activities are added to a project that are not focused on achieving the initial objectives defined in the scope statement, or that are not part of the initial project requirements, the project becomes out of scope. Scope creep may occur when a project's scope alters or expands due to a lack of careful management.

When a client seeks additional features without renegotiating the remuneration or demands additional services not originally agreed upon, it might also cause the project to become out of scope. Other common causes for project's going out of scope include:

  • Lack of foresight and preparation during the project estimation stage

  • Lack of depth and transparency in the project management plan document

  • Clients who want to have more tasks undertaken without spending more money

  • Lack of prioritisation of project tasks

How to avoid out of scope elements in a project

Belows are some ways to avoid out of scope elements in your project:

1. Recognise the client's objective

Talking with your customer is the best way to fully understand their objective. Sit down with your team, make suggestions, listen to their project objectives and align them with the customer's objective. If the customer and planning committee don't have concisely defined objectives for the project, start again and take time to define clear objectives. It's critical to understand the client's aims through strategy meetings and discussions before the project begins.

2. Define and document precise requirements

After agreeing with the client, document their requirements clearly by establishing them under the project's goal. Determine the challenge that you're attempting to solve. You may consider anything that's not documented as being out of the scope of the project. You can also establish a checklist of out-of-scope activities or project exclusions besides the project activities. As you do this, ensure that the client and project team are aware of these limitations.

Related: How to Improve Project Management Skills in 9 Steps

3. Define what's in the project and out of scope

You can address any additional demands, adaptations or add-ons easily later through a second project. It's also possible to add additional requests as part of a new milestone. You can submit these recent additions for approval by extending the original project description. Identifying every component of the scope can help you and your team to stay focused on the specific project goals.

4. Collaboration with clients and stakeholders

A project management plan requires collaboration to develop. You may involve the internal and external stakeholders and clients in this initiative. By bringing the customer along for the experience, you might achieve a better understanding and a result that matches the original concept and addresses their needs. You may exchange crucial information across stakeholders to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that the project runs smoothly. A collaborative approach is vital to effectively managing and completing the project on time.

Related: Top 10 Tips on How to Work Collaboratively in the Workplace

5. Describe the procedure for additional requests

Clients may make new requests during the process. Explain to the customer how to add additional tasks to the project in this situation. Keep your previously stated parameters in mind at all times. Remember to scrutinise whether the project's schedule, timeline and resources will allow for additional requests without affecting project delivery.

6. Establish your goals and constraints

The scope statement explicitly defines the project's objectives and activities. Establishing your goals and constraints is critical when leading a larger group of people who may not be familiar with all the project's activities. Ensure you define clearly both the aim and how the end-user can use the deliverable. You can also establish any project constraints.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

7. Encourage the client to work with you

Involving the client in your project planning ensures higher transparency and cooperation between the client and the agency. You can control access to data on a role-by-role basis with online systems and software platforms. A client, for example, could use a single link to locate and view the activities that apply to them. This makes creating and distributing progress reports much simpler.

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