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What’s Scope Creep and Tips To Avoid It
By Christian Bisson

Scope creep is the one of the worst enemy for any PM if not managed properly. It includes anything that was not part of the initial scope of your project and got added without properly going through any processes.

One little scope creep may not have much of an impact, but if they stack up, or if one is a major one, the project can severely go over budget, off schedule, or end up….never ending! There are a few sources of scope creep: client request, team members gold plating (adding more to the project than they should), unknown project requirement that got identified, risks that became issues, etc.

Here are some tips to prevent those scope creep:

  • Manage stakeholder expectations

    This is important, no matter how great what you deliver is, if expectations are above what’s delivered, than you will spend all the budget adjusting, and will end with an unsatisfied client. Those adjustments become scope creep and will devastate the budget, the schedule, and potentially the whole project.

    To manage those expectations, it is important to always be very clear with the client from the start by communicating what’s expected to be delivered but don’t forget to discuss what’s excluded too.

    Another little tip, is to not be afraid to say ‘No’!

  • Change management process

    It is important to know what is the process when you think a scope creep is coming up. Do you have to talk to an account manager? Is there a change management board for the project? Do you have to manage it yourself?

    Whichever it is, you have to make sure that is clear. Once it is, at least you’ll know where to start if a scope creep is coming up. Makes it easier! So once a scope creep is on your radar, you can go ahead with talking with the account manager and discuss the battle plan with him, file a change request to the board, or you can analyze the impact of the scope creep and talk to the client.

  • Communication within the team

    Gold plating can add a lot of unplanned costs to your project, and add to your client’s expectations, which can have a chain effect throughout your whole project as your client will always expect the gold plating on his project.

    So to avoid this, you have to clearly communicate the scope to your team. Also, let them know that ideas are welcome but to discuss them before executing anything. If they communicate their ideas, you can potentially obtain more budget and the client will appreciate the added ideas instead of taking all of it for granted as gold plate.

  • Mitigation plans

    Risks becoming issues are considered scope creep, and the impact can vary from minor to horrible. By planning ahead to avoid anything becoming an issue, you can prevent those scope creep.

    It’s always good to have some budget aside to manage this, but that may not always be possible, so at least keep an eye on those risks, you may use some budget you do not have, but it will still beat those risks becoming issues.

In conclusion

Scope creep can make the difference between a successful project and a project failure. So manage it properly and be pro-active!

Do you have any bad memories with scope creep? Or want to share more tips? Feel free!

Christian Bisson is a project manager from Montreal, QC, Canada. His PM experience is concentrated in the Internet world, and he helped deliver over a 100 projects over his PM years. You can read more from Christian on his blog.

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