Think about your last marketing project that went awry. Whether it was a quick-turn deliverable or part of a larger integrated campaign, you can likely point to the moment (or moments) where things got off track. And more than likely, those hiccups were caused by a lack of strategic alignment and definition of the project scope.
That’s because great project management and execution requires a lot more than moving pieces — and even the most straightforward marketing campaigns or tasks can get off-track without a detailed project scope. Knowing how to write a project scope will ensure stakeholders and marketing teams are on the same page before your team starts the creative process.
What is a project scope?
Project teams and stakeholders should work together, not against each other. But too often, both sides fail to define the boundaries of a project and end up duplicating efforts or perhaps worse — missing an entire element. Developing a clear project scope helps everyone to stay aligned on the goals, deliverables, and constraints of a marketing project before it begins, and ensures that your org has enough time, resources and the right people to do the job. A project scope, otherwise known as a scope or statement of work (or SOW), allows stakeholders to understand what the project parameters are, informs team members on the expected amount of work for each phase of the project, and helps you and your team to identify any gaps in the plan.
How to write a project scope
Learning how to write a project scope can take time, but it doesn’t have to be arduous. Creating a reusable template can help you to easily walk through each new project that arises and come up with a big-picture plan for how to execute it efficiently, under budget, and on time.
1. Gather details
Before you can create or write a project scope, you should reach out to stakeholders and team members to collect information about the different steps of the project as well as what resources and workflows need to be in place. Make sure to include the following:
The first step in knowing how to write a project scope begins with establishing business goals. The business goals section is where you briefly articulate the overall vision of the project, including why your stakeholders and team are supporting it, and the big-picture objectives you expect to achieve. These objectives may include boosting awareness of a new product, increasing registrations for a webinar, or driving leads. Delineating the expectations will be vital for keeping the marketing project on pace and avoiding distractions and asks that fall outside of the project scope.
Project deliverables and criteria
Now that you’ve established the broad goals for the project scope, it’s time to sit down with your team and stakeholders and make a list of the specific deliverables you’ll produce by the end. This deliverable might be a big rock piece of content, digital ad, a website, a training, or an event. Whatever it is, make sure everyone on the team agrees on the expected outcome. You should also make the deliverables specific and measurable. That way, it will be clear when the project has met the stakeholders’ criteria and is finished. If you’re producing a product training, for example, make sure to say what topics the training will cover, how many people you’ll train, and how long you are committing to training them.
An important part of knowing how to write a project scope is to acknowledge that every team and project is bound by certain constraints, from budget to time limits to personnel. And as necessary as it is to articulate what you can do in a project, it’s equally important to acknowledge what you can’t. If, for example, you have a lean team and can’t provide last-minute overtime hours, say so upfront. Setting these guidelines early on will help everyone manage time and expectations— and will keep your team happy, productive, and less susceptible to burnout.
Just like with limitations, it’s vital to spell out unspoken assumptions that people are bringing into the project. A stakeholder might assume that a website project will include certain pages and features, or a team member might assume that she is writing the content while others assume she’s the editor. Sit down and list out the expectations everyone has about how big the project is, what it involves, and who’s doing what by when. When the rubber meets the road, you’ll thank a documented strategy.
Inclusions and exclusions
Everyone knows that even the most well-intentioned projects can fall prey to mission creep. To keep your project focused and on your team on task, make sure you clearly articulate what’s included in a project — and what’s not. If you’re planning a major event for current customers rather than for prospects, make sure your stakeholders know that. This will keep the project from becoming unwieldy or unrealistic and will allow your team to make each decision with one eye on what’s essential and what’s not.
Your team might be ready to get cracking on a new project, but they can’t do their best work if they don’t know what resources are available to them. Including this is essential in how to write a project scope. It will help leaders communicate with their team members what sorts of skills, technology, mentorship, and personnel they already have without having to reinvent the wheel. If you have existing templates or manuals for similar projects, you can save your team lots of time by listing it upfront. The same goes for if you have a specific budget allocated for training on a particular skillset or an ace computer program that will help speed up the work.
If you’re working on a project with billable hours, establish in the project scope exactly who you need to pay and how much time you expect the project to take. Also consider any costs associated with specific aspects and elements. Budgeting will help you get clear on project costs and what asks will require extra time and funding.
The last step in how to write a project scope is getting your team to sign on the dotted line. This agreement is not a contract, of course, but getting your chief stakeholder and project manager to approve it shows that people are clear on the expectations and will take their commitments seriously.
2. Make a project schedule
You’ve identified the scope of your project — now it’s time to put your plan into action. Make a list of all the deliverables you’ve committed to producing. Under each deliverable, list the tasks required to achieve each one, who is responsible for each task, and how long you expect the work to take. Be realistic — your schedule should keep your team on task but be flexible enough to allow for agility and accommodate changes.
3. Pull your project scope together
There’s no one right way to format a project scope document. It can be as simple as a text document — or, if your processes are more complicated, visualizations can help you clearly illustrate how each piece of a project fits together.
Gantt charts, agile marketing scrum boards, flow diagrams, and kanban boards are all great ways to showcase to team members and stakeholders what work needs to be done, when it’s being done, and who’s doing it. Your project scope could also be included in as a comprehensive campaign brief.
Once you know how to write a project scope, the key is to make sure to share the it with everyone on your team and refer back to it whenever you’re making decisions, assigning tasks, or deliberating on how to achieve your objectives.
In addition to learning how to write a project scope, you should also consider a marketing project management software. Here are 6 reasons why you need one.
Jen Gustavson is a NewsCred Contributor.