Creating a project scope is a little like getting directions for a trip in Google Maps. In this simile, the address is like the deliverables of a project, the turns are like the project details, and the time estimates are the project requirements. We know to plan for all these things when going on a road trip, yet so many creatives and marketers fail to go through the project scoping steps when embarking on the road to a project outcome. Then they wonder why their project gets hopelessly off-course.

The same way maps help you decide how much gas you need, a project scope helps you understand how many resources you’ll have to dedicate to get to your project’s destination. The same way Google Maps will warn you if a place will be closed by the time you get there, a project scope can help you see if you’ll run out of budget or miss a deadline. Most importantly, this project scope decides what you’re not doing. “We are not stopping for ice cream!” is the road trip equivalent of we are not jumping on every new idea for this project or doing more than three rounds of creative revision.

Here are the steps to take and the questions you need to ask yourself to get from point A to project deliverables:

Identify the need
What is this project meant to solve? What will you do and why are you doing it?

Communicate the goals with everyone involved
Who will be affected? How will they be included in communication, and how often? What is the scope of each individual stakeholder’s responsibility?

Write out the scope description
What will be included and excluded in this work? This description should follow the SMART acronym, meaning it’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Mark your major milestones
What are the phases of the project? When do you want them to be completed?

Confirm your constraints
How much time, budget, and other resources will you have to work with? What challenges might you come across as you finish this project?

Gather your resources
What tools, contacts, and other resources will your team have at its disposal to get this project done?

Create success metrics
How will we know it’s been successful? How often should these be measured and reported?

Create a change process
Changes have consequences of cost, confusion, and chaos, but sometimes they are inevitable. Decide the process for changes, if necessary, so that they’re not just done willy-nilly.

Once you get these questions answered and documented, consider creating a template that you can apply to future projects to make the scoping process more streamlined. If you have a detailed project scope prepared from the beginning, you’ll be better able to avoid expensive detours and potential wrong turns as you go.