control scope process

What Is Control Scope Process: A Complete Explanation

Learn how project management professionals can master the Control Scope process to ensure project success by effectively managing scope changes.

Mastering Control Scope for Project Management Professionals

A project is a set of tasks to be completed by a specific date for a stated goal to be achieved. Every project has scope, that is, the guidelines for the tasks and budget to stay within the project’s boundaries. The scope must be defined because, otherwise, the project work will exceed all resources and fail to meet requirements or produce the desired outcomes. Within Project Management Institute (PMI)® Learning Featured Topics a definition is provided:

“Project scope is the work required to output a project’s deliverable. Change happens, and project scope management includes the process to manage scope changes and make sure the project will still come in on time and within budget. Scope is often defined by a work breakdown structure, and changes should take place only through formal change control procedures.”

As part of the PMI Knowledge Area, Project Scope, a project manager must be able to define what is in or out of scope and manage work throughout the project against the defined scope in order to ensure that project deliverables fit project requirements, budget, and timeline.  As part of the Project Scope knowledge area, Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 7th[MR1]  Edition and online lexicon resource provides these  project scope term definitions:

  • Scope Management Plan | A component of the project or program management plan that describes how the scope will be defined, developed, monitored, controlled, and validated.
  • Scope Baseline | The approved version of a scope statement, work breakdown structure (WBS), and it’s associated WBS dictionary that can be changed using formal change control procedures and is used as the basis for comparison to actual results.
  • Scope Creep | The uncontrolled expansion to product or project scope without adjustments to time, cost, and resources.

Within control scope process activities are the following:

  • use change control process steps to control scope
  • create and maintain documentation (project scope statement, work breakdown structure, etc.)
  • utilize a change control process that includes change request documentation
  • maintain change communication with the team and stakeholders to manage expectations.

The project team depends on the project manager to use a control scope process to manage scope and better ensure a successful project.

Why Scope Control is Important for a Project Managers

Change is inevitable, and it can bring improvements or problems. A project manager uses scope management, including the scope statement, work breakdown structure and work breakdown structure to:

  • Ensure project deliverables align with the project’s original goals and objectives.
  • Enable risk mitigation through systematic changes to the scope baseline completed with a consistent change control process using standardized change request templates.
  • Manage resources such that there is efficient allocation with less chance for redundant or unnecessary work.
  • Secure customer and stakeholder support as part of ongoing change control process communication.

Change cannot be prevented, but it can be managed. A project manager should use a formalized change control process to manage each change request so that the project deliverables meet stakeholder expectations.

Control Scope Process Scope Statement

A project manager needs to know that it is within the project scope from the start to have change control. The Scope Statement ensures that the project team, stakeholders, and clients have a shared foundational understanding and agreement on the project deliverables, budget, and timeline. Typical components of a scope statement  include:

  • project objectives and goals
  • project boundaries (what is “in scope” and what is “out of scope”)
  • project deliverables list with acceptance criteria
  • project scope definition
  • project constraints
  • project assumptions
  • project budget
  • project timeline and known milestones

Note that there is a difference between the Scope of Work (SOW) and the Scope Statement. A Scope of Work serves as an agreement between key stakeholders that the project is supported and approved overall. The Scope Statement is a planning document that guides the management of the approved project.

Control Scope Process Purpose

Within Project Management processes, the Control Scope process monitors scope status so that changes can be managed against the scope baseline, scope creep can be prevented, and project goals can be achieved.

Control Scope Process Steps

Project scope management can be applied to almost any type of project across industries. The goal of delivering project outcomes on time and within budget is universal! Adjustments are needed to customize for a project; of course, however, in all instances, Control Scope process steps complement each other so that the project manager can:

  • Measure project performance against the scope baseline.
  • Manage changes to the project scope.
  • Update scope documents and project plans.

Control Scope Process step 1 | Plan

The scope management plan is created within this step to capture how scope is defined, monitored, and controlled. To control scope, there must be a scope management plan that includes:

  • Project budget
  • Project Requirements (from customers, stakeholders, and management)
  • Project Timeline
  • Scope Baseline
  • Scope Statement
  • WBS (work breakdown structure) Dictionary
  • Work Breakdown Schedule

The project manager is responsible for comprehensive, specific, and detailed scope documentation communicated to the project team and stakeholders. Scope creep, in which requirements and work that do not advance the original project goals but use project budget and resources, cannot be prevented without an accepted scope plan. The agreement from the start on what is within the project scope and what is outside of the scope plays a critical role in the project’s chances of success.

Control Scope Process step 2 | Control

With the Project Scope Management plan in place and the project underway, the project manager now must control scope. This project management step within project scope management is about monitoring progress, managing emergent changes, and preventing scope creep. Control scope documentation must be updated, change requests must be documented and addressed, and project deliverables must be validated for acceptance or denial. 

Like with any project management process, consistent, transparent, and relevant communication must occur throughout the control work. The project manager should provide scheduled updates with reports on progress, change requests, and status so that the team and stakeholders know the project’s progress toward reaching goals.

Control Scope Process step 3 | Close

Competing deliverables that meet project requirements is not the end of the project! The project manager must close out the project, which within the control scope process means documenting the alignment of final project deliverables to the original project scope and requirements. The close out ensures the project team can gain value from lessons learned and apply to future work.

Tools and Techniques to Control Scope

Project management professionals use tools and techniques to achieve effective change control.

  • Create and maintain a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to visualize the project scope components and support control and monitoring efforts throughout the project.
  • Conduct scheduled Scope Reviews to identify scope changes and potential scope creep in time to make needed adjustments and corrections.
  • Conduct Variance Analysis to compare project performance against the scope baseline and identify deviations, root causes, and action needs. 
  • Employ a Scope Change Control System with consistent formal procedures for documenting, assessing, and then approving or denying scope changes.
  • Take corrective actions to reduce the impact of variances and keep the work in scope and on track.
  • Use scope management software to track changes, access documentation better, and maintain records for audits and archives.
  • Verify scope deliverables to ensure they meet the defined scope, including quality and functionality requirements.

Use control scope tools to ensure a project remains aligned with the original objectives.

Common Control Scope Challenges and Solutions

If controlling scope were easy, there would not need to be a change control process. Every project is different, but common control scope challenges include:

  • Insufficient project scope documentation, such as an inadequate scope baseline, scope statement, or change requests, is a common cause of scope creep and project mismanagement.
  • Failure to communicate scope: lack of documentation, reviews, and communication are all sources of project misunderstandings, derailment, and overruns. 
  • Customer or Stakeholder influence: pressure (or even threats) may be exerted to achieve a change that is outside the scope and can have a far-reaching negative impact on the project.

As part of best practices, a project manager can use these tips to prevent or work through common challenges:

  • Maintain robust project documentation, including all scope-related documents.
  • Engage Stakeholders in control scope processes and with consistent, frequent change control communications to manage expectations.
  • Enable change management culture, including training and resources, to ensure an understanding of the purpose and benefits of the change management process.

Project Management Control Scope Examples

Project Management annals have haunting tales of change gone wrong to warn new project managers of the perils of projects without a change control process. Consider these two examples:

The Sydney Opera House

Massive schedule and cost overruns at the project start were overcome once a robust change management control system – with documentation and processes – was implemented. Once there was a stringent process for reviewing and approving submitted scope changes, in addition to continuous performance monitoring, the project got back on track. Today, the Sydney Opera House is an international symbol of culture and architecture.

Heathrow Terminal 5

The value of regular scope reviews, a change control system, change software, and performance monitoring is evident in Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 construction project management. This massive undertaking was completed on time and within budget due to the project’s change control processes, resources, documentation, and tools from the start.

A project manager must avoid budget overruns, schedule delays, unhappy clients, and failed deliverables. To prevent these, a robust control scope process with integrated change control elements should be used.


Every project should be undertaken with a management plan, including a scope baseline, a change control process, regular scope reviews, and stakeholder engagement. Potential scope creep and unexpected changes will occur along the way. Still, with a commitment to the process and a mindset of continuous improvement, successful project outcomes can be achieved.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO