Defining Project, Product and Solution Scope

Defining product and project scope is an important framework for detailed requirements development. In order to define the scope of the project’s end result (the product or solution) and the project’s implementation needs (the project itself), it is critical to understand the difference between product and project scope and which one should be addressed first in the requirements development process.

The product scope is the basis for determining the project scope. Typically, the project manager determines the cost and time based on the product scope, or the solution to the problem. Doing it any other way increases the risk of project failure—not on time, over budget, or not completely delivered. Defining the product scope is typically the responsibility of the business or requirements analyst. Product scope is defined as part of requirements development, which is one phase of a typical project or systems development life cycle.

I always find that it helps me to define the product scope before defining the project scope. The product, being the solution to the problem and the end result of a project, must be defined before we can reasonably expect to determine the scope of the project. I have found that the clearer you make the distinction between the project itself and the resulting product or solution, especially with upper level management, the more likelihood there is of success in delivering that product or solution within the framework of your project.

The documents and artifacts, regardless of what they are and whose standards are followed, define what the product is.  Typically the resulting product or solution addresses a business problem, need or opportunity. I have found that defining product or solution scope and then the project scope makes both requirements definition and project management much easier and more process-driven.

Susan Weese

6 Responses to “Defining Project, Product and Solution Scope”

  1. 1 ibrahim September 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Good presentation.
    What is the relationship between product scope, project scope and scope creep?

    • 2 sweeseltre September 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      That’s a great question! I think that the traditional view of scope creep is product or solution scope creep, where what we have defined changes or grows in some way. This can lead directly into project scope creep due to changing and new requirements, rework and possibly even new work based upon the magnitude of the creep – schedules change, new resource skills may be needed. You know, poor project planning could result in the opposite path where the project scope is insufficient or incorrect for implementing the product or solution scope. So it’s definitely a bi-directional situation – requirements or business changes leading to project plan changes or poorly planned projects impacting product and solution scope and requiring changes themselves.

  2. 3 Phil September 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    “Touching the tar baby” is always a huge danger in an ill defined project esp. in the IT environment. Unless clear definition is made in product definition, the user community seems to be quite content in advancing scope creep.

    We have attempted to build traceability documents that deliniate the product scope but have failed to stop what I refer to as “scope gallop”. Any suggestions?

    • 4 sweeseltre September 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      Phil, you are going to have to rein in that horse called “scope”! I don’t think that traceability alone can do that for you. Traceability will help you evaluate the impacts of requested changes and look for scope creep and gold plating in your projects. However, it won’t address the level of volatility that the phrase “scope gallop” implies! Seems like the places to start might be (1) the organization’s change control process and how/why changes are requested, (2) the organization’s requirements development process to see if too many requirements are incorrect, incomplete, or just missing and (3) how folks set and manage stakeholder expectations on the organization’s projects and other initiatives may need some adjustment.

  3. 5 Andre Marillier April 16, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Hi, do you have working examples of various project management templates. Based on actual completed projects?!

    I understand the theory part of it, but need an example to guide me in completing new project templates!


    • 6 sweeseltre April 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Andre, I am always a fan of working from templates and modifying as needed. Please be sure to check out my future posts and I will see what I can find to share with everyone! Susan

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