In-Scope Vs. Out-of-Scope

As Project Managers, we often struggle managing client expectations regarding what is in-scope vs. what is not. We want to agree with the philosophy of “The customers always right,” but we need to balance the project costs and delivery schedule. Here is a quick guide I have used over the years to help determine project scoping:

  1. Is it documented anywhere? Projects are documentation heavy. We have charters, project plans, and design documents. Documentation should be the first avenue for validation. If it does not appear in a document, it was not intended to be part of the project. Documentation is the easiest way to help keep your project within scope. It also requires the upfront work of properly documenting what is to be done on the project.
  2. Ask the question, “What is the objective of this project?” First and foremost, if this question is unanswerable, the project is in danger. The client and the project team should be able to provide a succinct definition of the objective of the project. If not, go back to the beginning and create a better definition.
  3. Create measurable milestones. When we are in the early phases of scoping out a project, one of the key phrases we use is, “The successful completion of this project entails…” This provides us the ability to quickly identify the “what are we doing” portion of the project. This is always a measurable item, so the answer should provide guidance. Objectives such as, “grow our customer database” or “design a better mobile application” are not measurable. Answers such as, “we want to redesign our platform to become web enabled” or “design a mobile application to capture client contact information while at industry tradeshows” are measurable.
  4. This is a pretty straightforward parameter. Is the request or milestone addressed in the estimates specific? If not, is there an area specifically covering its functionality? If not, most likely it is out-of-scope. The budget factor is critical in project scoping. One of the major areas of dissatisfaction along with schedule is going over budget. A client will not be concerned at the end of a project if you are over budget because they made you do all sorts of out-of-scope items.
  5. Along with the budget, we have scheduled. Is the item accounted for in the plan? This can be another way to help the client determine if this additional request is an add-on. When putting your schedule together, it is imperative that it is as detailed as possible. Accounting for both major and minor milestones will keep the project focused on what is essential for the delivery.

As with all projects, there will always be some fluidity. It is important to maintain a solid plan, but also allow for changes along the way. Put in place a proper change management process, and what was once a shift in scope, can now be an opportunity for a project.

Want to learn more about Project Management or have questions about in-scope vs. out-of-scope project elements? Contact KTL Solutions at 301.360.0001 or email us at

Share this post

Related Posts

Checking Your CMMC Progress

Written by Alec Toloczko With Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements on the horizon, it’s crucial for organizations handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) to adhere

Read More »