A note on Product Scope & Project Scope

In Project Management context, clarification on Product Scope and Project Scope is important & it helps easy management of the project.

We discussed on terms Project , Product & relation between Project Life Cycle and Product Life cycle earlier. Just a recap here:

Project is the one which is executed to create a unique product or services; and

Product is the outcome of a Project.

With above definition in mind let us review their scope definition:

Product scope: The features and functions that characterize a product, service, or result

Project scope: The work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions. [1]

Product scope can remain constant at the same time that project scope expands which is called as Progressive elaboration. Progressive elaboration should not be confused with scope creep. Progressive elaboration is giving more details for the already defined scope and not increasing the project scope. And
Scope creep is adding features and functionality (project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval.


My building contractor estimated the work on my house construction. He thought that he will be using special type of cement for concreting. But that special cement was not available in our place. He explained me who was responsible for ordering and delivering the materials from his side. Taking on that responsibility doesn’t change the product scope (house construction), but now the activity (in project scope) & its responsibility was completely explained. (Progressive elaboration)

After contractor started the work with the plan & estimate, my wife suggested me to add a wall construction near the entrance. But this was different from what we agreed. So, contractor told me this was an extra work and he did it with extra money. (Scope creep)

[1]. PMBOK® Guide – 3rd edition

5 thoughts on “A note on Product Scope & Project Scope

  1. Hi Reader,

    I think you are doing a good job in scoping the project.

    In Initiating phase, Project Manager is expected to develop preliminary high-level definition of the project scope – this could be expanded version of scope statement of project charter. It is not required to create a detailed level scope which is up to work package level in WBS. Also, whenever scope is defined it is for the entire project & not for only initiating phase.

    PM need to document
    * project and deliverable requirements –> about activities required to produce product of the project, output of each phase, milestone and project
    * product requirements –> about things required to develop, test and deploy the product
    * boundaries of the project –> what are the constraints, assumptions and limitations of the project (not the product)
    * methods of acceptance –> different criteria for acceptance
    * high-level scope control –> how we are going to track the scope change, who will be responsible for controlling.

    Simplest way to collect information is archive documents of already executed projects. If the project is new from scratch then PM can go for interview how you are doing right now.

    When I compared your questions with the above bullet point categories, it is matching well. So, while framing your questions, try to get as much info as possible on all points.

  2. A Question from one of the Reader:
    I’m working on the initiating phase of the project and am trying to lead the team to define the scope. My challenge is the owner/leader of the process is not able to help the team define it. I’d asked the team questions like at the end of the day, how does the deliverable look like? Or when the project ends, what do you want to be accountable for? Do you have any suggestions on how I can better facilitate the discussion so we can define the scope?

    Also, when defining the scope at the initiating phase, is the scope only limited for the initiating phase or is it for the life cycle of the project? In another words, are we scoping out the work for the initiating phase or for the entire life cycle?

    Any guidance you can provide would be helpful,

  3. Hi Babou,
    Important topic, but I suggest that you clarify your wording.

    My reading of progressive elaboration is that it doesn’t necessarily lead to additional project scope, which your post implies. It simply means that one continuously improves and details the plan as more detailed and specific information and more accurate estimates become available[adapted from PMBOK Guide 3rd ed.].

    Such elaboration may mean that you discover that additional work is needed to deliver the same product. However, typically elaboration means that one is simply more specific about the work package or activity (e.g., decomposing a work package into tasks).


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