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What is Feature Creep in Project Management?
By Ray White

Feature Creep: Small product feature additions that expand a project scope.

Feature creep is one of the big reasons projects ship late. Some people simply cannot deny themselves. They want more and more features in their great new product, and can’t stop adding them Here’s how it happens.

When a new product feature is complete, there are oohs and aahs from all the project stakeholders. They love it! Why? Because they are sure customers will find it useful and reward the company with more business. That’s only natural. But then something else happens… One of the stakeholders steps up and says, “That’s cool, but can it do one more little thing?”

All the other stakeholders agree. The new feature you added is nice, but the product should do one more thing to be complete. And they may be right. So you add that. And a few more things. And a few more things after that. That’s feature creep.

Little additions creep into your product features until they consume a major part of the project timeframe. The extra features are nice, but can you afford the extra time? After all, you now have less time to implement all the other cool features you were asked to do.

Note: Stakeholders often don’t understand this problem. Later, they’ll come around and ask why your project is behind schedule. You can’t say that it’s because of all the little things they asked for. Why? Because they won’t remember those or they don’t see them as a major time sink. See the problem?

Ray White started building project management software for Lotus Development Corp in 1995. In former lives, he worked as an electrical engineer, developing microprocessor-based computer systems and writing software for them. Mr. White is a founder of Scoutwest, Inc, which publishes two project management products: Standard Time® and Standard Issue®. See www.stdtime.com and www.stdissue.com. Read his blog at www.projectteamblog.com.

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