Many projects face difficulties and setbacks due to unclear or loosely defined scopes at the project’s inception leading to miscommunication, unmet expectations, and project failure. A clear scope will answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the project allowing for a shared understanding of the overall vision and expectations of the project across the entire team. In this article, we will explore the elements of a clearly defined scope through the lens of one of our agency’s Tableau Data Visualization client projects showing how the individual elements of a scope contribute to answering the above-mentioned questions, and in turn, create alignment and efficiencies for the project team leading to a higher likelihood of success.

Failing to Clearly Define Your Project’s Overview and Objectives Risks Losing Its Necessity and Relevance

Every project has a reason why it’s needed or necessary. It’s essential that the scope of the project vividly spells out this purpose, providing the team with a transparent and comprehensive grasp of the objectives.

In the example below, the Project Overview provides the context for the purpose of the project, while the Project Objectives outline specific, measurable goals that the project will achieve.

Project Overview

The Tableau Data Visualization project is focused on developing comprehensive data visualizations using Tableau software. The project aims to transform raw data into actionable insights, making it accessible and understandable for stakeholders. It encompasses data analysis, visualization design, and the implementation of interactive dashboards.

Project Objectives

  • Create meaningful data visualizations that enable better decision-making.
  • Improve data accessibility and understanding for the stakeholders.

By understanding a project’s purpose and goals, it allows team members to develop meaningful solutions. Furthermore, by understanding why a project is necessary, it can result in higher quality outputs as the team can apply this knowledge to develop solutions that fit the goals of the project. Without the shared understanding, team members might not see how their role contributes to the larger objective, leading them to blindly produce solutions without any critical thinking, resulting in outputs that simply meet the minimum requirements rather than more strategic and innovative solutions.

Defining Project Deliverables Precisely is Critical for Ensuring Team and Client Harmony

Project deliverables serve as outputs that will be achieved during the project timeline that meets the stated goals. Defining the deliverables up front creates a clear vision for the project team to understand not just what needs to be created but also by whom. Team members can work more efficiently if the output is determined up front because they won’t need to spend time brainstorming what the output should be. This will allow them to focus more on the quality of the work. Establishing clear deliverables aligns the project team and client, resulting in outputs that are more likely to meet the client’s expectations upon initial completion rather than requiring multiple rounds of revisions. In the example below, you can see clear outputs that contribute to the ultimate objective of the project.

Project Deliverables

  • Data visualization and requirements documentation
  • Preprocessed and cleaned data for visualization
  • Configured Tableau Server or Desktop
  • Designed data visualizations and dashboards
  • Interactive dashboards for data exploration
  • Data security measures and privacy compliance documentation
  • User training materials
  • Comprehensive documentation for Tableau usage
  • Tested and quality assured data visualizations

These deliverables serve as natural checkpoints between the client and the project team to align on progress and direction resulting in a more streamlined final product. Defining deliverables up front sets the team up to deliver and meet the project goals more efficiently and effectively.

Neglecting to Establish Clear Processes, Strategies, and Boundaries May Lead to Team Confusion and Uncontrolled Scope Creep

The “how” of a project scope is captured in the activities and tasks as well as methodologies and resources used to complete the project. The “where” on the other hand refers to the limits or activities that would fall outside the scope of the project. Detailing these elements creates boundaries ensuring the team has a clear understanding of expectations, allowing them to stay focused on the task at hand and guiding them to completion. The below example illustrates the details needed when defining activities. The more clearly these activities are defined upfront, the smoother the project will go.

Project Activities

In-Scope Activities

  • Requirement Analysis
    • Gather and document data visualization requirements from stakeholders.
    • Identify key performance indications (KPIs) and data sources.
  • Data Preparation
    • Collect and reprocess data from various sources.
    • Clean, validate, and transform data for visualization.
  • Tableau Configuration
    • Set up and configure Tableau Server or Desktop based on organizational needs.
    • Ensure data source connectivity and integration.
  • Visualization Design
    • Design data visualizations, including charts, graphs, maps, and dashboards.
    • Implement best practices for data visualization design.
  • Interactive Dashboards
    • Develop interactive dashboards that allow users to explore data.
    • Implement filters, parameters, and drill-down features.
  • Data Security and Privacy
    • Implement data security measures to protect sensitive information.
    • Ensure compliance with data privacy regulations (e.g., GDPR, CCPA).
  • User Training
    • Provide training for end-users on how to navigate and use Tableau dashboards effectively.
  • Documentation
    • Create comprehensive documentation for data visualization and Tableau usage.
  • Testing and Quality Assurance
    • Conduct thorough testing of visualizations to ensure accuracy and performance.

Out-of-Scope Activities

  • Data collection and storage infrastructure setup
  • Data analysis beyond visualization design
  • Custom software development unrelated to Tableau
  • Hardware procurement (servers, workstations, etc.)

Overlooking Known Risks and Assumptions Can Lead to Unforeseen Project Changes

Defining assumptions and potential risks ensures all stakeholders share a clear understanding, enabling the team to adapt quickly as new information arises that alters the original plan. As new information is learned through the project lifecycle, these assumptions or risks may change as the new information may disprove an assumption or new risks may arise. These changes can serve as identifiers to revisit the original scope and adapt as necessary. Identifying risks and assumptions also serve as important project management tools allowing managers to identify out of scope requests and keep the team focused on the project at hand. However, if changes are necessary, they can be made through a change request process. This formal process allows the team to evaluate the changes and update the activities, budget, and schedule accordingly. Below are examples of some risks and assumptions in our Tableau Data Visualization project.


  • Data Security Breaches
  • Data integration challenges
  • Design Errors


  • Availability and quality of necessary data sources
  • Adherence to data privacy regulations

Failure to Set Accurate Timelines and Budgets Risks Undermining Expectations and Resource Allocation

Providing a timeline and budget up front provides transparency between the project team and client and serves as a measuring stick for the team’s progress throughout the project lifecycle.

Project Timeline

  • The project is estimated to take [X months] from initiation to completion.

Project Budget

  • The total budget for this project is estimated at [$XX.XX].

Unclear Identification of Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities Can Lead to Project Dysfunction and Ambiguity

Clearly identifying roles eliminates ambiguity, prevents task duplication, and ensures individual accountability. It also ensures a more cohesive and collaborative environment because each individual or team is clear on their individual task or responsibility.

In the example below, each stakeholder is defined along with the individual with final project approval preventing indecision or conflicting opinions.


  • Project Sponsor
  • Project Manager
  • Data Analysts
  • Business Intelligence Team
  • IT Team
  • Data Privacy Officer

Project Approval

  • The final output is approved by the client.

Failing To Create a Well-Defined Project Scope Can Hinder Your Team’s Path To Success

A clearly defined project scope serves as a roadmap guiding all stakeholders from project inception to completion and keeps the project aligned with its intended goals. By defining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the project, you are creating a guide for the entire team to follow and are setting clear and concise expectations. A well-defined scope is more than just a planning tool; it’s a commitment to clarity, direction, and purpose, setting the stage for a project that meets, if not exceeds, its objectives.