Why A Detailed Project Scope Is Crucial To Create An Accurate Proposal

Julian Wallis
14 min read
Project scoping session

Things can always go wrong regardless of how well a project is planned. In addition, unexpected problems can arise; without a clear project scope, it can be challenging to determine which tasks need to be addressed first. 

Estimating the time, resources and finances required to fulfil the requirements of a project are complex in their own right. Imagine doing it without knowing what your team expects to do or achieve in the project. That sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

By properly scoping your project, you can ensure that everyone involved knows what the goal is and what steps need to be taken to achieve it. 

Determining a clear project scope helps minimise confusion and ensures everyone is on the same page. However, it doesn’t end there. A well-executed scoping process can help you stay on track budget-wise and keep your project from becoming frustratingly more complex than it already may be. 

However, arguably, the fundamental reason to adequately scope a project doesn’t involve any development or testing activities. Instead, scoping is the foundational research and analysis conducted before presenting a project proposal.

If an accurate and honest proposal is to be documented, then prior requirements analysis is mandatory. This is where the project scope plays an integral part. 

Through comprehensive scoping sessions, you can extract information and insights from clients to understand the inner details of the project goals, objectives and requirements. Only then would you be able to estimate an accurate budget & resource requirements and propose a realistic timeframe coinciding with the client’s product launch priorities.

Well, that was just a preview of what is set to come. If you’d like to learn more about scoping projects properly or are struggling with an existing project, keep reading. We’ll share valuable tips to make your next project scoping session a success! And you’ll learn a thing or two about crafting accurate proposals along the way.

What Is Scoping? 🗓️🤓

Scoping is the process of extracting the requirements of a project to ensure that all stakeholders understand exactly what will be achieved and how it will be achieved. In essence, by addressing the project scope, we want to clearly articulate the project’s end goal and the path taken to get there.

Video Courtesy: Eye on Tech | YouTube Channel

But is that all there is to it? And if I’m clear about my project, do I even need to scope? Well, not exactly! From a birds-eye view, the project scope will give us the answers we are looking for regarding project requirements, priorities and goals. However, a properly executed scoping cycle will also enable you to be confident enough to create a proposal well within acceptable levels of accuracy.

Understandably, there’s a limit to how detailed the scoping process can be, which will be dictated by the size and urgency of the project. Simple projects with a smaller timeframe and fewer technical requirements require minimal scoping effort. A few days of working on the project scope should be enough for such projects. 

On the other hand, complex projects could need weeks, if not months, of detailed scoping out of sheer necessity. This is because complex projects require plenty of prior planning and analysis to understand the intricacies between technologies involved in development.

Here’s a good rule of thumb — if by the end of the scoping process, you understand at least 90% of what needs to be done, then you’re off to a great start. 

Why? That’s because in such cases, you’re then able to provide an estimate with a relatively high degree of accuracy and not just a “wet finger-in-the-air” to see what direction the wind is coming from the type of estimate, which is hardly a good method to make important decisions by.

Why Is A Project Scope Necessary? 🤔

We’ve discussed the importance of a project scope several times in the above paragraphs. But to recap, scoping plays a pivotal role in almost every part of the project lifecycle, from ideation to launch.

However, the scope of this article (no pun intended) is limited to the planning and ideation phases of the project, as we’re attempting to explain the correlation between scoping and project proposals. Below you’ll find a few key concepts that demonstrate the need for establishing the project scope specifically for crafting proposals.

Planning Always Comes First 🙋‍♂️

How important is a plan? Can you succeed without it? Sure, if you’re living in a fantasy world. But for us folks in the real world, it’s like trying to construct a building without plans. Guess what’ll happen next? Likely, you will end up with a less-than-ideal structure, and your investment will go down the drain. Even more likely, the project will be cancelled midway through development.

To design and plan a building, architects spend considerable time and effort creating the perfect blueprint for the building. The construction only begins after the approval and agreement of the design and development plan. 

Similarly, we’re architecting a plan for a build, whether a website build, an app, or a B2B portal. A plan that connects the requirements and vision of stakeholders with an approach that can turn said dream into a reality.

Architect creating a design of a building

The key idea or takeaway from all this is that through scoping, we want to gather as much information as possible before commencing the project to put ourselves in the best possible position to complete the project and delight all project stakeholders.

Controlling The Uncontrollable 😎

A project will have two variables. You’ll encounter many variables at play that are in our control. On the flip side, many variables are out of our control. 

The latter can potentially damage or derail your project, so managing such variables effectively is crucial. However, the problem is that such variables are not usually evident in the early stages of a project but can appear out of nowhere down the road.

The only way to safeguard yourself to an extent is by actually managing what you can effectively. In essence, to potentially control the uncontrollable, you have to work the controllable properly first. In our case, the controllable is the project’s scoping, documentation, and planning elements. 

Prioritising these project functions will minimise the risk of things getting out of our control in the crucial stages of the project. For example, suppose your project requires an integration of multiple software platforms, then without prior analysis and study of the respective platforms, you’ll surely end up with more than a few development hurdles later. 

Factors include technology updates and working with different technologies that may not be suited to function together. You’ll want every help you can get. And thorough scoping is just that and perhaps even more. 

Overcoming future roadblocks and challenges is only possible if proper planning is done beforehand. Planning thoroughly and enough for what’s within our control should minimise the impact of potential stumbling blocks during development. 

At a fundamental level, the building analogy encapsulates this concept perfectly. If you try to construct a building without plans, you’ll inevitably run into many problems later, such as where do we start? What needs to be done? How many rooms does there need to be? All these questions would’ve been quickly answered if the project had been planned instead.

Thus, scoping a project is mandatory to prepare for inevitable challenges down the development road and minimise unwelcome and potentially disruptive surprises.

The Requirements Of A Meaningful Scoping Session ✅

Preparation Is Key 🔐

If the scoping session is intended to be fruitful, all participants should be prepared before the meeting. Participants should enter the meeting with a clear idea of what they want to achieve with the project. This means a clear understanding of the project goals, requirements, and vision is necessary. 

Don’t get us wrong here. You don’t need a concrete plan before the scoping session. But, if that were the case, why would you even scope in the first place?

The expectation is to have a clear and relatively detailed product idea and project requirements. “We want a new website” or “we wanna build an app” are not detailed nor helpful examples of product requirements.

That said, it is not an expectation that you would have a clear idea of the technologies that must be utilised during product development. That’s fine, but you should clearly understand the project vision and be able to articulate it effectively. 

A man explaining a concept to his peers in a project scope session

Ready To Be Challenged 🔍

Secondly, participants need to be prepared to answer questions in detail that gives us more of an understanding of the business and what you’re looking to achieve as outcomes of the project. 

Sometimes tough questions may come up, and you or someone in your team attending the meeting should be able to communicate effectively and provide the insights required to plan and scope the project properly.

Flexible Frame-Of-Mind 💡

You need to be open and receptive to ideas within the scoping process. For example, in a scoping session, requirements and project goals can change based on revelations from the discussions.

A rigid or unaccommodating mindset will only hurt the project and the product vision.

A scoping session is about discussing new ideas, changing plans and getting enough information to derive a tentative course of action for achieving the end goal. 

The scoping session shouldn’t be about creating a plan to achieve the project goal. That part comes later. It should be about communicating the project vision, goals, stakeholder expectations, and specific product requirements to extract the information required for the project plan.

Being unsure and confused about your vision and project priorities is one way to ruin the effectiveness of a scoping session. By the end, nothing would be achieved, and both parties will just be more confused, if not frustrated. 

Suppose you can clearly articulate the product’s vision. In that case, we can lead the way by asking the questions we need to get the information required to document everything before the project formally begins.

Common Mistakes When Establishing The Project Scope ⛔🙅‍♂️

As cliched as it may sound, most companies don’t put enough effort into determining the project scope and planning a project and jump into development willy-nilly. As a result, not enough effort or time is put into the scoping phase of a project. Essentially projects are started with minimal understanding of the requirements, objectives and vision. 

What ends up happening is things change so much throughout the project that the identity of the project becomes utterly different from where it was when it all first started.

Even worse, projects get halted after unsurmountable challenges arise, which surprises everyone. In essence, a lack of contingency planning and scoping leads to the downfall of the project and a possibly innovative product idea never sees the light of day.

Is It Impossible To Create An Accurate & Honest Proposal Without A Project Scope First? 📄📌

While it’s certainly not impossible to create a proposal without a project scope, we can confidently say that it is indeed impossible to provide an honest and accurate proposal with a fixed budget for an entire project before determining the project scope.

In a project, there are different variables: technology, stakeholder expectations, timelines, resource allocation, and availability. The main one is the specific requirements of the project, which need to be adequately identified in detail to have an accurate gauge of what the project will entail in terms of planning and devising a solution strategy. Everything else comes after.

We don’t know what technologies will be involved or used without completing the project scope. Only after establishing the project scope can you start connecting the dots and crafting a plan to develop the product as per client expectations. 

Furthermore, technology brings about plenty of variables outside our control that can impact the project and how long it takes. 

Documenting and studying the requirements is the best way to understand the possible implications of factors that are out of our control and create contingency plans to minimise harmful consequences if said factors were to take shape. That said, the requirements do change throughout the project. Even after thorough scoping, people’s minds can change, and naturally, things evolve over time, which also has to be considered.

So, the critical idea of scoping is not to create an untouchable and rigid requirements list but to get to within a solid area of accuracy for the project objectives as things stand.

Two individuals discussing a project proposal in front of their computers

Of course, the scale and demands of the project will always determine the level of the project scope required. For example, a simple landing page design and development project would be easily scoped and estimated concerning budget and resource allocation.

However, a 12-month massive project involving multiple integrations and development cycles will be much more challenging to the scope and estimate. 

We’ve repeatedly stressed the need for proposals to be accurate in this article. However, in highly technical projects, estimates will always require a bit of wiggle room, as it’ll always be unrealistic to guarantee that this will be the “last dollar that you’re gonna spend” because of the complex and unpredictable nature of the project.

Fundamentally, the idea of the project scope is to reach a point where you can confidently say whether it’s a fixed or a proposed budget; whatever it may be, you are confident in its accuracy. Again, it’s not always going to be 100% correct, but is it there or there about? That’s what we’re after.

Lastly, you should come up with an honest price estimate for the project with a clear and understandable rationale. What is driving the cost up? Where are we saving costs? Where will most of the project budget be spent? It is important to educate stakeholders on the factors that are contributing to the final cost estimate to ensure integrity and honesty.

What Next After Finalising Your Project Scope? ⏭️

What should you expect after completing the project scope? A project plan, or as we call it, a website blueprint or a software blueprint, depending on the type of project, is what you’ll end up with after a well-thought-out scoping phase.

The project plan or the project blueprint is a document that includes all the critical information of the project, such as the requirements, goals, budget, and outcomes of the project scope, among other things.

In more ways than one, this ideal roadmap of your project is created with the input and agreement of all key project stakeholders to document precisely what needs to be achieved and how it will be done.

The type of project will dictate the contents of the project plan. For example, software and website build usually include user or buyer personas. However, those may not be included in a project focused solely on a custom integration between two different software platforms.

Final Thoughts – Key Takeaways 🎁🔚

Establishing a project scope is all about understanding customer expectations and specific project requirements to properly get an idea of what the project will involve and what the best course of action can be to achieve a common end goal.

Despite being difficult to execute, scoping is integral to the success of your project. First, you’ll need to finalise a core set of features and functionalities for your product with agreement from all stakeholders. 

There’s probably no single piece in the project management puzzle that’s more integral than any other, but if we were to choose one, scoping would be one of the top contenders.

In our own experience, we’ve scoped every project we’ve undertaken before creating our proposals because, from years of managing projects, we’ve learned that excellent planning goes a long way. But conversely, poor planning and lack of project analysis lead to a road filled with frustrations and disgruntled stakeholders.

We hope you found this post helpful and learned a few things about how and why to have a detailed project scope. Let us know if you’re interested in revamping your website or perhaps building an app for your business. We’d love to have a chat and help you out!

Published On

September 29, 2022