How to Define Scope in Scope Management for PMP

I want you to read the title of this post again. Read it again. Now read it three more times. Are you starting to get a little cross-eyed? That’s how I felt when studying define scope is the scope management portion of the PMP exam. Scope, when not contextualized in a project, can seem arcane.

To overcome this barrier, I recommend that you determine a very specific example that you relate back to the scope management portions of the PMP exam. We’ll do it together with the Define Scope process, and then extrapolate what works for you to the rest of your studies. (By the way, this example works for studying any part of the PMBOK Guide that you find hard to understand.)

scope management

This is a telescope. Scope Management for your PMP is different!

First, let’s begin with our example:

You are a project manager who has been selected to lead a project to design an innovative new cat toy. Historically, your company has only produced toys for dogs, but your senior management has decided that it is a wise business decision to get into the cat market.

Before we get into inputs, let’s emphasize this point from the PMBOK guide: “The Define Scope process can be highly iterative” (PMBOK, 121). That means that the Define Scope process — like so many other processes in the PMBOK guide — isn’t done as cleanly in real life as it might be on paper. In cat toy terms, that means you will have to revise and develop the product specifications, the cat toy marketing plan, and more depending on how the project progresses.

Inputs for Define Scope in Scope Management

A good way to focus your study is to determine which inputs, tools/techniques, and outputs are worth spending most of your time on. The inputs for Define Scope are an example of what NOT to spend too much time on! The four inputs are (1) Scope Management Plan, (2) Project Charter, (3) Requirements Documentation, and (4) Organizational Process Assets. I bet we can say how these relate to our project in two sentences.

Our scope management plan indicates we activities we use to develop the scope of our cat toy project and product, while the project charter shows us why we want to embark into a new market and some ideas of how we’ll do it. We’ll use the requirements documentation to select the attributes of our new cat toy, and the OPAs will give us some templates we can adapt for use on our project.

Pretty easy, right? The contextual example helps here. Now that we have our inputs ready, let’s move on to the tools & techniques of defining scope.

Tools & Techniques for Define Scope in Scope Management

Let’s take a look at how each of the tools and techniques of defining scope relates to our project:

Expert Judgment requires that you bring in experts on cat toys. These might include pet stores, cat owners, and even cats (the ultimate subject matter experts).

Product Analysis would break down your deliverable (a cat toy) into smaller components to ensure you take all of the necessary steps to make the toy

Alternative Generation helps you brainstorm all of the different ways to work on the project to ensure that you select the best and most efficient way of making the cat toy.

Facilitated Workshops allow folks from different to discuss and find common ground on a project. For a bunch of people who have only ever made dog toys, this might be very important for them to understand cat toys!

Outputs for Define Scope in Scope Management

At this point, you might be saying, what’s so hard about defining scope? Well, hopefully, our example has made it really easy for you! However, the toughest, most important part of define scope is an output. No, not Project Documents Updates — that’s the easy one.

The Project Scope Statement is a crucial part of your project and the PMP exam. In conjunction with this article, take an in-depth look at pages 123 and 124 of the PMBOK guide.

Know that these six areas are addressed by the Project Scope Statement:

  • Product scope description – What are the specific requirements of the cat toy we are producing? Give more detail than the project charter and requirements documentation.
  • Acceptance criteria – What criteria must be met before senior management allows us to hand off the cat toy to operations?
  • Deliverable – This is easy for our project — our deliverable is a cat toy!
  • Project exclusion – What isn’t involved in our cat toy project? Remember, it is important to manage stakeholder expectations with this part of the scope statement. We don’t want a senior executive expecting us to produce cat food now too!
  • Constraints – What internal and external factors can impact the project? In our case, the project is internal to the organization so there are no contractual restrictions.
  • Assumptions – What assumptions have we made while defining scope for our cat toy?

You will likely encounter a question or two on the difference between the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement. Table 5-1 on page 124 in the PMBOK Guide compares these two documents in detail, but you will likely do just fine if you remember that the Project Charter comes before the Project Scope Statement. Everything in the Project Charter is a high-level overview, while the Project Scope Statement is a detailed plan.

This article is a good way to study Define Scope, but the technique can be extrapolated to other process areas as well. When reviewing a particular process in the PMBOK guide, break it down and focus on the most important part of the process. In this case, our key focus area was the Project Scope Statement — put this one on your list to keep reviewing!

What’s the example project you are using to contextualize your PMBOK preparation? Share below. Can’t think of one? Give us some idea, and we’ll help you think of one.

Sign up for Early Access to Magoosh PMP Prep!

Comments are closed.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!