The (M)anage & (M)itigate of Scope Creep

March 13, 2017

Whatever the industry you are in, your worst nightmare as a project manager is scope creep. “Scope creep (also called requirement creep, function creep and feature creep) in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project commences.” (Lewis, James (2002). Fundamentals of Project Management (Second ed.). AMACOM. pp. 29, 63. ISBN 0-8144-7132-3.)

It looks like this.

You start working with your client on a project where you think you know what the expectations are but over time the project seems to grow arms and legs.  Your client believes that this additional work was part of the original agreement and plan and/or does not realise that their requirements have changed from the original scope.

This can be damaging in terms of results (time, budget or quality), and needs to be controlled to ensure your business keeps its standing and stays financially sound.

Here are a few ways that can help you manage and mitigate a scope creep:

  1. Make sure you understand all the requirements and the overall desired outcomes

Understand your priorities and the priorities of the project drivers. Make an ordered list for your review throughout the project duration. Items should include budget, deadline, feature delivery, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction. You’ll use this list to justify your scheduling decisions once the project has started.

  1. Be proactive and offer best practices and advice before starting into the project.

It’s very important to work with your client in a collaborative way, to ensure your plan of action will meet the desired requirements. Treat your project as a partnership where you have been chosen for your expertise.  The more you can bring to the table, the better for your client. Make sure he/she understands all the possibilities and make decisions wisely and collaboratively.

  1. Think of risk and plan contingency accordingly.

Plan for the possible risks in this project, make them clear to your client, and plan contingency accordingly. Your client will appreciate your crystal-clear communication, and will prefer to plan for the worst (timely and financially) in order to get the best outcome possible.

  1. Communicate all through the project development and make sure to follow up after every milestone.

Communication is a pillar in project management as this allows all stakeholders to know where things are at, and it ensures that expectations are managed throughout the entire organisation.

  1. Expect that there will be scope creep.

Change Order forms and logs need to be put in place as early as possible, and this needs to be explained to all the stakeholders in the project so everyone knows the processes. Formalizing Change Orders will help you to present a cost-benefit analysis allowing stakeholders in the project to prioritize.  This will allow you to schedule and revise timelines and budgets accordingly, with everybody on board.

In a nutshell, the process for avoiding scope creep and keeping your clients happy is as follows:

  • Understand what your client wants to achieve (desired outcome)
  • Collaborate with your client to produce a solution
  • Clearly define the scope of work and do your risk analysis to plan contingency
  • Get a clear understanding and signature so that the client knows what they are paying for
  • Communicate throughout the project 
  • Involve stakeholders in change management decisions
  • Keep a record of everything

Scope creep can be a slippery slope; it should not be feared but rather removed from the equation.

The (M)anage & (M)itigate of Scope Creep