Validate scope PMP

Validating Project Scope: Key Steps for Success

For PMP certification prep or to brush up on project management best practices, use these steps to validate scope such that project deliverables meet requirements and stakeholder expectations.

Ensuring Accurate Scope Validation in Project Management

A project manager may not yet have earned their Project Management Institute (PMI)®  Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification status to have realized the significance of scope management within project management. Scope Validation is part of the scope management work used to realize stakeholder satisfaction and maintain the quality of project deliverables. Achieving accurate scope validation in project management can:

  • ensure that project deliverables meet stakeholder expectations
  • ensure that project deliverables fulfill specified requirements
  • foster stakeholder satisfaction
  • identify faulty deliverables to allow for the change control process to activate
  • reduce scope creep and resulting risks
  • ensure the accuracy of project documentation for accountability
  • reduce misunderstandings among project team members and stakeholders,
  • keep the project on time and within budget
  • build stakeholder trust

The long list of value brought by a well-managed validate scope process is indicative of its importance and potential.  

Project Scope within the PMI and Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam

PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 6th [MR1] Edition describes the ten knowledge areas, of which Project Scope is one. 

The Project Scope knowledge area includes the Validate Scope process which is activated for formalizing acceptance of the completed deliverables. The Project Management Plan is the primary input to the process with completed project deliverables (that have been validated and verified) are the primary outs. The PMP® certification exam may reference PMBOK® Guide 6th[MR2]  Ed. content, including the Validate Scope process, inputs, tools, techniques and outputs.

Validate Scope Terms

To understand the Validate Scope process within the Project Scope Knowledge Area, several key terms are needed (note, these terms are potential items on the PMP certification exam).

  • product scope | focused on the deliverables themselves—the features and functions of the product, service, or result; project scope covers the “how” of the work, while product scope covers the “what” of the deliverables.
  • project scope |the work required to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions; involves identifying and documenting specific project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs, and deadlines; ensures that everyone understands what needs to be done and sets the boundaries for what will be delivered.
  • scope baseline | an approved version of a project scope statement, work breakdown structure (WBS), and its associated WBS dictionary; serves as a reference point throughout the project to track progress and manage changes; includes the project’s scope statement, the WBS, and the WBS dictionary.
  • validate scope |within Project Scope management knowledge area used for waterfall project management; involves verifying that the completed deliverables meet the originally defined requirements and ensuring the stakeholders formally accept them; used to confirm that the project’s outputs align with the agreed-upon objectives and specifications.
  • verify scope |an internal process conducted by the project team to ensure the deliverables meet the specified requirements as opposed to the external process of validation in which the stakeholders assess deliverables to the specified requirements.

Steps in the Validate Scope Process

Within the Project Management Knowledge Area of Project Scope is the Validate Scope process, in which it is determined whether the project deliverables meet the project requirements. The Validate Scope process ensures that quality control, stakeholder satisfaction, and project success are consistently addressed by collecting project deliverables, conducting inspections and reviews, getting formal stakeholder acceptance, and documenting and handling change requests.

Collect Project Deliverables

Project deliverables are all outputs produced by the project to that point in time. Deliverables will be specific to the project and may include documentation, reports, products, or software. Each outcome listed in the project plan is a deliverable to collect as part of validation to ensure it is aligned to project requirements. Consistently and systemically collecting the deliverables is needed to ensure an output is noticed and meet requirements.

Conduct Inspections and Reviews

A collected deliverable is progressed to the inspection and review activity within the validate scope process. An in-depth examination is conducted to verify that acceptance criteria and project requirements have been met. Different tools are used to determine if project deliverables meet requirements, such as peer reviews, formal audits, walkthroughs, or testing. The project team should always compare the deliverable to acceptance criteria, identify discrepancies, and document findings. If a deliverable does not meet requirements or acceptance criteria, it should not be submitted for formal acceptance.

Obtain Formal Stakeholder Acceptance

From passing inspection, the deliverable moves to stakeholders for a formal acceptance. The project manager should have communicated to the stakeholders at each step of the process. With the deliverable presentation, the project manager should:

  • include inspection findings
  • answer stakeholder questions
  • address stakeholder concerns
  • obtain documentation of formal acceptance

Formalizing acceptance of the completed deliverable results in the approval documentation. The acceptance of the completed project shows the progress of the project team and creates a record by which later potential misunderstandings can be addressed.

Document and Address Change Requests

During the validate scope process inspections, an output may not be accepted. In those instances, a change request is documented, and the project’s change control process is activated. The project manager and project team assess the requested change regarding the potential impact on the project budget, timeline, and scope. Change approval is achieved only through the change process. The project documentation is updated accordingly. In this way, the project stays aligned with stakeholder and sponsor expectations, and changes are made while control quality is sustained.

Project Management best practices include the Validate Scope process, which allows the project manager to ensure that project deliverables fulfill defined objectives, meet project requirements, and obtain stakeholder approval. These steps contribute to the project’s success.

Techniques for Effective Scope Validation

Use the combination of scope validation techniques that fit the needs, type, and size of the project.

  • Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) documentation traces each deliverable to its original requirement for more comprehensive scope validation.  
  • Inspections, audits, and reviews are used to assess project deliverables’ quality and completeness against predefined criteria. 
  • Prototyping generates early versions of products upon which stakeholder feedback is gathered and then used to inform iterative versionsuntil requirements are fulfilled.
  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT) has end users validate deliverables via real-world scenario use.

With the structured approach these techniques bring to verifying deliverables, gathering feedback, and obtaining formal acceptance, the project is better positioned for a successful completion.

Best Practices for Validate Scope

To ensure deliverables that meet requirements, the project manager should keep these best practices in mind for the validate scope process:

  • Scope baseline should be reviewed consistently and updated as needed.
  • Stakeholder communication should be regular, clear, and frequent.
  • Requirement documentation should be specific and clear.
  • Inspections and reviews should be thorough, consistent, and documented.
  • The Change Management process should be consistent, and change requests documented.

Benefits of Scope Validation

The time invested into consistent scope validation process work benefits the project manager and the project itself.

  • Change Management: To help control quality, the validate scope process requires change requests to be documented and managed consistently through a change request process.
  • Communication and Documentation: To reduce misunderstanding, the Validate Scope process promoted the creation of detailed documentation for each deliverable, including related change requests and acceptance validation. 
  • Quality Control: To achieve early identification of discrepancies, and thereby increasing the changes of corrections to be made before final delivery, the Validate Scope process requires thorough assessments.
  • Reduced Scope Creep: To prevent scope creep, the Validate Scope Process includes a formal acceptance process applied to all project output thereby preventing changes after-the-fact.
  • Stakeholder Satisfaction: To foster stakeholder satisfaction, the Validate Scope Process is based on stakeholder approved requirements and managed through project management standards. An output becomes one of the accepted deliverables with alignment to stakeholder requirements.

Common Challenges within the Validate Scope Process

Project management does not remove all challenges, but it does provide a means to reduce the probability of problems and mitigate those that occur. Within the validate scope process, common challenges are:

Ambiguous Requirements

Prevent vague requirements in the requirement documentation through engagement with stakeholders to confirm their requirements. Unclear or nonspecific requirements can lead to wasted work, cost overruns, missed deadlines, and misunderstandings with the stakeholders.

Scope Creep

Uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope is called scope creep. It often occurs when new features or tasks are added without proper evaluation or approval, leading to potential delays, increased costs, and resource strain. Managing scope creep involves clear documentation, regular scope reviews, stakeholder communication, and a robust change control process to evaluate and approve any changes to the project scope.

Stakeholder Misalignment

Ongoing engagement with stakeholders, including communications and meetings, help manage the relationship. Conduct formal deliverable reviews and obtain written approvals to keep expectations aligned.

Unmanaged Change Requests

Uncontrolled change requests can lead to scope creep and other issues without a robust change management process. Every change request should be documented, assessed for potential impact, and formally approved before implementation.


The Validate Scope process is core to traditional project management and a potential topic for the PMP certification exam. Project deliverables must go through the validate steps to become verified deliverables. Validate scope and verify scope are often used interchangeably, but they have subtle differences: validate is conducted by the internal project team, and verify is done by the external stakeholders. Using the validate scope process, a project manager can maintain project scope, contribute to quality control, and foster stakeholder engagement.

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