5 Critical Elements of Project Scoping That Can Make a Project

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Scoping out a project correctly is essential if you want to deliver it on time, on budget, and with the desired results. That is an understatement when it comes to the advertising industry which is famous for overservicing clients. We wrote about scope creep and some of the things that agencies can do to avoid it in a previous article. This builds on that and focuses on some of the proactive things that your agency can do to effectively scope projects.

Doing this one thing well will have a huge impact on the quality of your projects and their profitability. Yes, we know it is not the only thing, of course.

Knowing these 5 project scoping elements can help teams map out how the project should go from its initial conception through to completion.

Set out your stall

We are not talking about preparing for the project itself because by then it’s too late. We are taking a step back and looking at the agency itself preparing to work with clients. Your Agency can start the project scoping process before you start to speak to a client. It should do the groundwork and set itself us like any other professional services business. That means that you need to work with a lawyer and get the following standard documents together:

  • Client Contract (sometimes referred to as the Master Services Agreement) – This document defines all the legalities of the relationship with your client and sets the framework for all future projects. This also should address who owns the intellectual property of your delivery during the project lifecycle. Hint – It should be your agency until the client pays in full.
  • Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA). Some agencies include this as part of the client contract, but the important thing is that you have one. It’s good business practice.

There are services that provide templates, but we recommend that you have a lawyer assist with the preparation. It is a one-off cost, and the value is immense.

Many clients ask your agency to sign similar documents, which raises the question “why should we bother.” There are 2 reasons:

  1. Not all clients do… and you need such documentation
  2. If a client does, it’s easier to compare this to your documents and see where the terms differ. It makes the negotiations clearer (although not necessarily easier.)
Don't reinvent the wheel for every project


Your agency delivers a portfolio of services to its clients. Right? We understand that every client is different and that no 2 projects are the same BUT they all fall into groups. A website has a certain process vs. a print ad vs, a social media campaign, etc.

Here again, templates are essential to effective project scoping.

If you know that a website needs a wireframe, project management, development, and maintenance then why not have:

  • A template brief document for the client to complete and approve
  • Estimate Template – this will already include the number of acceptable revisions etc.
  • Project Plan template – that includes maintenance etc.

When a new opportunity comes in, you can take these and amend them as appropriate.

Check out how you can use WorkBook template functionality

Establish a Clear Vision and Set of Goals

Once a project comes it then setting out a clear vision for the project and its associated goals is the starting point for success. This will help ensure that everyone involved knows what they are working towards and can serve as a reference point when evaluating progress throughout the entire project. That is where your template brief comes in.

As early as possible, create a clear briefing statement for the project to set the foundation for expectations and objectives. This needs to be signed off by the client before any work starts. Many agencies start before the brief is signed but that is risky as it may change and lead to write-offs and unprofitable clients.

There are 2 things that this document must include:

  1. What is in scope and what is not in scope. We recommend that you clearly state what is in scope in as much detail as possible. We also recommend that you detail examples of what is not in scope. The term “anything that is not listed is out of scope” is ok but giving typical examples makes it crystal clear.
  2. The process of dealing with and estimating items that are deemed “out of scope.” That clearly signals to the client that they will be charged.

Understand Your Resources Risks & Limitations

It is essential to understand the resources, budget, timeline and any other possible limitations that could affect the effort required for your project. If you’re working with an external agency or freelancers, make sure to include them in this process so that everyone understands the practical constraints and can plan accordingly.

Additionally, be aware of any risk factors or potential issues that could arise during the project. Having a clear view of potential pitfalls will help you create better plans to prepare for anything that comes your way. This should include any potential changes in scope or resources, as well as any outside influences that could impact the success of the project. Make sure you’ve identified these factors early on, so that you can plan for them throughout the life of the project and build adequate contingencies into your plan.

Identify Your Assupmtions & Constraints

Before you start planning and executing your project, it’s essential to identify any assumptions that could lead to delays or extra costs in the future. Far too many agencies don’t do that and then have an unpleasant surprise at the end of the project.

Additionally, it can be helpful to outline any constraints such as budget limits, timeline requirements, or external factors that may influence how you approach a project. This builds a foundation for making informed decisions and enables your team to plan and react quickly if things don’t go as expected.

Further Reading

We hope you found the blog useful and if you want to read more about the topic, then check out this excellent article from The Digital Project Manager.

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