Scope creep is when the original plans and goals for a project are in some way altered while in progress. It isn’t an unusual problem, because there are a wide variety of occurrences that can have an impact on any project.

Managing Scope Creep

In order to be successful in managing scope creep, being prepared for it is extremely important. While creating the plans for a project, including room for changes is vital to the project’s success. One method of doing this would be to add a contingency to the project’s budget, for the client to use as they discover new aspects or other changes they want to add to their project.

methods for managing scope creep include:Methods for managing scope creep.

  • Understand your client’s goals and vision from the beginning.
  • Be honest and straightforward with your client.
  • Make sure you invest the appropriate time in planning.
  • Create a point of reference for when questions arise.
  • Keep track of absolutely everything, including progress, using software and other tools.
  • Set rules for desired changes or additions, such as a specific request process.
  • Create a timeline or schedule with important dates, like when a new phase of the project is starting.
  • Use a prioritized list of tasks with the most important at the top, and items that are wants but not necessarily needs at the bottom.

Preventing Scope Creep

A project will run much more smoothly when all parties involved have a thorough understanding of the project, especially what is and is not included. At CommonPlaces, we make sure this is addressed at the project kick-off meeting.  During this meeting, the salesperson introduces the client to their project team.  The client is asked to explain their needs and goals of the project and then the project manager takes everyone through the project.  By having the project manager go over the project specifics instead of the sales person, we are ensuring that the project manager knows all the details of the project.  Our CEO, Ben Bassi likes to use the analogy of a driver and a passenger on a road trip, “if you take a road trip with someone, you as the passenger are not completely aware of how you are getting to your destination because the driver knows”

Once everyone is on the same page, and the key players thoroughly understand the scope of work, the next step is to make sure there is detailed documentation of all the tasks that need to be completed. . In a perfect world the original contract will have every aspect of the project included –but that isn’t always the case. This is where Planning comes in, this is where the specifics of the project are discussed and documented.  Our planning process is intense; in addition to the Statement of Work, we create use cases, wireframes, sitemaps, and engineering specs to outline the tasks as hand.  These tools help make sure everything is clearly defined, and it allows us to be honest and straightforward in our communication with the client.

When requests and questions arise, it is best to consult the Planning tools to see what was discussed and documented.  If the client decides they want to add or change something, make sure they know upfront that it will require an additional contract. Make sure to do this immediately and explain to the client why that specific task is not included within the original scope.  Ignoring it will either result in scope creep or an extremely difficult budget discussion later down the road. 

A Balancing Act

The reason scope creep is such an issue on various projects is because it’s not black and white.  Despite all efforts to establish a thorough understanding of the project’s scope, there will always be questions and discussions as to why certain tasks should be considered part of the scope.  This is where the project manager and client need to meet and understand each other’s limits to try and balance the project.  A Project Manager is limited to a certain budget and resources that can be allocated to each project. A client will have limits as well though, such as their patience and budget, so having a strong grasp on these is essential. If they make a slight or minor change to the project, you shouldn’t require a new contract to be created and signed because that is not an efficient use of anyone’s time.

One of the most important factors is creating and maintaining a strong relationship with the client. The easiest way to do this is by having a direct line of communication with one specific person representing for whom the project is being completed. If you continuously work closely with this contact, you will be able to tackle any questions or concerns as they arise. If you have one dependable line of communication, you can contact them about these unknown aspects if they go over the estimates and determine if it is worth continuing or if abandoning it is the best option for them.

Michael Reich
By Michael Reich

Enjoys being with his family of four in Bedford, NH. He would be a professional golfer if he had better aim or a ski racer if he was more aerodynamic. He's COO at Commonplaces and manages the team to provide customer success.

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