PMP Exam Prep – Part 8: Project Scope Management

In this section we will learn how to define, measure and control the amount work to be performed in order to achieve the goals or objectives of a project.

Project Scope Management involves some of the earliest activities that a PM will manage on a project. Logically, you need to first figure out the total amount of work you need to accomplish in order to complete a project before you can calculate how long the project will take and also how expensive the project will be. You might also recall from earlier sections that Scope is a component of the Triple Constraint and therefore Scope is the first of the triple constraints that we focus on.

Scope Activities throughout the Project Lifecycle

There are five processes that relate to scope when it comes to the Project Lifecycle:

  • Collecting Requirements
  • Defining Scope (Planning)
  • Creating the WBS
  • Verify Scope
  • Control Scope

PMI wants us to be comfortable with each of these processes and the role that they play throughout the Project Lifecycle.

Collecting Requirements

PMI’s approach towards Project Scope Management is to start off by collecting requirements. Here, we first perform a needs analysis as well as some initial data gathering. The focus here is on starting some of the very preliminary processes of the project. Some of the activities performed include:

  1. Performing the initial Risk assessment.
  2. Conducting Focus Groups and Workshops
  3. Working through Questionnaires and Surveys
  4. Evaluating Prototypes

At this point in the project, we’re still trying to identify what the requirements are and how we can measure the success of a project. It’s important to note that we should have a copy of the Project Charter to refer to at this point, as the Charter is listed as an input to the project.

Define Scope

We go through a process known as decomposition. We start with some of the preliminary bit of information that we have assembled in the project to date, such as a Project Charter, Statement of Work and Business Plans and we’re trying to break down the requirements into a greater level of detail. In other words, we are trying to build a detailed description of the project and its final deliverables.

Tools and techniques

  1. Product Analysis
  2. Alternatives Identification
  3. Facilitated Workshops

The output of this process is the Project Scope Statement. The scope statement is a written document and it contains a project justification; the product or end result of the project; as well as the overall objectives of the project being undertaken. The Scope Statement is often an attachment to the Project Charter and not part of the Project Charter itself.

The Project Scope Statement commonly contains the following components:

  • Project Scope Description
  • Acceptance Criteria or what must be completed in order for the project to be considered a success
  • Deliverables which can be thought of as the end result of the project
  • Exclusions which typically identify the areas that are out of scope for the project
  • Constraints which are externally imposed restrictions on the project, such as deadlines, budgets and limited resources
  • Assumptions relating to the scope of the project and the potential impact of these assumptions if they are not valid.

Create WBS

The WBS is a Product oriented (no longer task oriented) family tree of activity according to PMI.  The US Military was responsible for many advances in Project Management, including the development of the WBS as well as the PERT technique (A concept we will cover in the section under Project Time Management) that was developed during the Polaris Submarine Missile Program.

Decomposition and the 100% rule

Decomposition is the process of breaking down project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components, as the WBS is constructed in a hierarchical fashion and gets into progressively greater detail as we move from the upper levels of the WBS into the lowest levels of the WBS, also known as the work package level.

The 100% rule states that the WBS should capture all of the deliverables, both internal and external to the project. This follows the concepts of MBO, which were highlighted in the section on Project Integration Management. MBO or Management By Objective  defines an approach where all of the efforts in a project are directed solely towards the achievement of project objectives and that absolutely no effort should be focused on tasks that are superfluous to the project.

WBS Coding Scheme

You should be familiar with the WBS coding scheme for the exam. A coding scheme refers to the numbering format that is attached to the various levels of the WBS. An example of the WBS scheme is listed below:

152.1.1   Hardware Build-out  Requirements Definition  Scheduling and Procurement  Assembly  Closeout

152.1.2   Product Training  Training Requirements  Scheduling and Logistics

Cost Account – Work Package Relationship

The cost account is a term used when analyzing or constructing the WBS and is deemed to be just one level up from the lowest level, also known as the work package level in the WBS. The cost account is considered to be a summary activity with the work package as its child.

Exam Hint – Distractor answers in the exam. You will be presented with several options that are similar to “Cost Account”. For example, Code of Accounts: Defined in the WBS as any numbering system that is used to uniquely identify each WBS element. Chart of Accounts: Defined as any numbering system used to identify project costs by category and does not appear on the WBS. You might be asked to distinguish between these terms on the exam.


80 Hour Rule

This is a generally accepted rule when it comes to assembling the WBS. No discrete activity or series of activities should consume more than 80 hours of effort to accomplish a deliverable. This is equivalent to two 40-hour work weeks. This was a common practice especially in environments where reporting periods are conducted once every two weeks. This rule defines a level of work effort as compared to duration of a particular activity. For example, you can get 80 hours of work completed in one day if you hire enough people.

WBS Benefits

The WBS can provide many benefits to a project, we have listed several below:

  • Team Building
  • Creating a Framework
  • Clarifies Responsibility
  • Clarifies Objectives

In addition, the WBS can be used to help with all of the configuration management processes, including planning; budgeting; funding; estimating and scheduling.

Other Breakdown Structures

For the exam, you will be required to distinguish between the WBS and other breakdown structures. Several common breakdown structures have been listed below:

  • CWBS or contractual work breakdown structure: This is the customer’s perspective of the work breakdown structure.
  • OBS or organizational breakdown structure: The work tied into the hierarchy. We look at the individual elements of the WBS and tie that into the organization. We look at the tasks and refer to the departments in the organization that should be performing the work.
  • RBS or resource breakdown structure: We break down the tasks at the resource level.
  • PBS or project breakdown structure: This is simply another name for the WBS.

Scope Baseline

The WBS lays down the scope baseline for the project and that is because if a task is not in the project, it will not appear in the WBS.  We can have multiple baselines in a project, including a quality baseline; a cost baseline (budget) and a time baseline (schedule). The WBS is still considered to be the primary baseline.

Verify Scope

The scope verification process involves formalizing the acceptance of the Project Scope by Stakeholders.Before we commence on a project, it makes good sense to make sure that everyone agrees on the objectives defined by the project scope before we start investing all of our resources such as time and money.

Similarly, as we complete our work, we also need to obtain acceptance of our work results. As part of our process within the entire project or for each individual phase in the project life-cycle, we need to continuously gain and get acceptance before we move onwards.

In simple terms, we perform verification to ensure that what we have done so far is close to what we had initially planned. We are trying to minimize our level of risk by performing verification. In other words, as the complexity of a project increases, so then does the degree of risk involved in the project.

A good example would be to try to take a shortcut that you’re not familiar with as you’re driving toward a destination. As you turn off the highway, you realize that there is the possibility that you might encounter construction, get lost or even run into bad traffic. The complexity increases as you select this additional route, and hence the risk or the possibility of affecting the outcome of the journey increases.


In this section, we reviewed several concepts relating to Project Scope Management. We reviewed the need to collect requirements and define our scope through a Project Scope Statement and we also looked into the concept of Decomposition, where we break down information into it’s component parts and seek to explain or describe a task in greater detail. We looked at the WBS and examined some of its structural components.

In the next section, we will look at Project Time Management, another element of the triple constraint.

Hope you found this article interesting. As always, show some love by leaving your comments or likes.

Road Chimp signing out.


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