A project manager interviews project sponsors and stakeholders to identify the limitations and exclusions of a project as part of scope definition. A good understanding of limitations and exclusions at the start of a project is critical to its success.
Limitations or constraints specify anything not available to a project. Examples include funds over a fixed budget, the possible loss of resources to a higher-priority project or an end date committed to before the project began.
Constraints form the basis for risk identification, while exclusions define what is not addressed in a project, often termed out-of-scope. An example might be the statement in a security project that video surveillance is not to be included at this time. Exclusions often delimit what occurs in a project if it is but one phase of a larger project. The exclusion establishes what the current project does not handle and in what sub-project deferred items are to be delivered.
The key to getting comprehensive limitations and exclusions is communication. Involving representative stakeholders in discussions can lead to the discovery of constraints not always apparent to a sponsor. It is important to discuss, negotiate, draft, present and discuss again. Using tact can alleviate people's natural discomfort in admitting what is out of their control. Emphasizing the positive benefits of a tightly-defined project is worth the effort.