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Make Your Stakeholders Write the Project Scope

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 4/21/2013

How can you involve the stakeholders in project scope decisions? Better yet, how can you make your stakeholders write the project's scope? By making the stakeholders clearly define project product, justification, deliverables, and objectives, you're already half way there.

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    Clarifying the Scope

    You're tempted to ask, "If the project stakeholder is the decision-maker, how will I gain control?" But think along the lines of "the clearer the scope, the better the outcome." For example, if your stakeholders do all the work in defining the project and then turn it over to you, your project will succeed with less distractions.

    First, make sure your stakeholders understand their roles. Clearly define what is expected of them. Explain that once you and your team have the project scope, you'll be able to run with it and avoid little-to-no input from the stakeholders. This does not mean you shouldn't include stakeholders in project progress meetings. What it does mean is that you've accepted their outline and can go with it without constant, daily input.

    First meet with the stakeholders and tell them it's in their best interest to help define the scope of the project. Tell them the product, objectives, and justification must come from them in order for you to meet their deliverables. Explain clearly what is expected of them and what items you are specifically looking to obtain.

    Supply a scope statement template to help the stakeholders write the scope statement. You can use your own or download our template of a scope statement by clicking this link.

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    Guiding the Stakeholders

    Steering Committee 

    Product - Start by discussing the product. You'll need a clear description of what the product will be so you can come up with scheduling, budgeting, and resources.

    Objectives - Have them explain what their objectives are for the product. Will it have a retail or internal value? What will they be using the product for? When do they expect the product to be delivered? In a scope statement, it's essential that you have them only outline what is necessary for the project or product while excluding the non-essentials.

    Justification - Have the stakeholders define the market demand or business need of the product. They should also explain, in detail, all of their requests and their customers' desires. If it is a product that is IT based and will improve on a current product, have them clearly define why and how it will improve the product.

    Deliverables - This part of the scope statement should be a joint effort, although you should ask the stakeholders what exactly will determine their satisfaction. Use their input on the product, objectives, and justifications to create your Work Breakdown Structure.

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    Deliver the Scope Statement

    Now that you've met with the stakeholders and received the information you requested, it's time to create the project scope and have them sign off on the project. If you've planned your input carefully, the project scope should be easy to write with clear and identifiable goals, budgets, resources, scheduling, and deliverables.

    Your scope statement should only include items that meet the project's needs in order to avoid scope creep. On the other hand, it shouldn't be void of essentials provided to you by the stakeholders. Consider the scope statement as an agreement between you, the project manager, your resources, and the stakeholders. Explain the necessity of their acknowledgment of the scope statement before work begins. Be sure the stakeholders understand that you will be able to identify changes to the scope statement early on and submit for their approval.

    A well written scope statement can guide you and your team to a successful outcome. Having stakeholders help you write the scope statement almost always guarantees their happiness and your high achievement, which will bring recognition and future projects. Keep the stakeholders informed during the project. However, let them know up front that once the scope statement is defined, their input will be minimal until progress meetings.

    Nothing can harm a project faster than interference from stakeholders who want an outcome but constantly change the scope of the project. Be forefront in your expertise and deliver them the scope statement they want, which you wrote from their direction.