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The Positive Side of Scope Creep
By Meade Rubenstein

You often hear complaints from developers and project managers about scope creep in a project. This is often pointed to as the #1 cause of project failure or delay…how could those dastardly sponsors add more…why didn’t they know this a year ago when we started this project….well the truth of the matter is – scope creep is usually justified and the root cause of it is poor planning. What? How could I say that? Let’s look at some reasons for scope creep:

  • Missing work – the actual #1 cause of project failure according to Capers Jones. Either through incomplete business requirements or project definition something that needed to get done was missed. Adding the MIA1 element back in is not scope creep, but scope discovery. Better planning and requirement reviews would uncover these issues.
  • Delayed project delivery – sometimes delayed project delivery is caused by priority changes or productivity issues (to aggressive in the planning phase), regardless, a delay in delivery means more time for external or internal business changes, resulting from a change to the project…scope creep? Yes, but for a valid business benefit reason.
  • The world changes – even if the project is tracking good, things happen in the world that require the business to shift its focus…offering 100 photo uploads? Well you competitor just went to unlimited uploads…can’t say no or your delivery may seriously impact revenue.

So, What to do? First off, better planning and business requirement review will uncover required work removing the ‘hidden’ from becoming creeping. The next most important step is having a clear change control process in place so any requests coming in once the project starts are clearly tracked, assigned priority, review for impacts, etc…. Scope creep? Another project myth.

1 MIA: Missing in Action

Meade Rubenstein has over 20 years of IT experience. He is currently the COO of Gráfica Group. Meade’s website can be found at http://www.itprojectguide.com/ and his personal blog can be found at http://www.itprojectguide.blogspot.com/.

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