It lurks as though it’s coming from the shadows.
Its insidious presence looms, threatening to take charge of everything we do.
It. Is. Scope creep.
Scope creep is the tendency for software projects to grow beyond their original bounds. It arises naturally. For instance, a client will want more functionality for the same price, and a project manager will want to hold the line on costs and time delays. This often happens when clients don’t know how to define their requirements further beyond “I’ll know it when I see it.”
Avoiding scope creep increases the chance of delivering the project on time and on budget. Because smaller projects usually have a greater chance of success, PMs often split massive assignments into smaller pieces as a way to avoid scope creep.
Here are eight more suggestions on how to prevent scope creep from taking over your project.
8 Ways to Manage Scope Creep
- Be vigilant from day one. Say yes or no to new requests as soon as they come in. If you start the habit at the beginning of a project and stick with it until completion, you’ll handle scope creep effectively.
- Understand your client’s vision. Before you get the project requirements, make sure both you and the client have a firm understanding of the project’s goals. What does the client hope to achieve? Why is it important?
- Understand the project requirements. Clarify all goals and objectives in the initial planning stage. Know the exact deliverables and their functionality. Wholly understand the project’s complexity and truly weigh it against the target deadline and resource availability. Separate deliverables into specific, manageable tasks, and list their estimated completion times as major and minor milestones within the project.
- Include a process for changing scope. Review milestones and update timelines every time a scope change is requested. Empower a limited number of people to request scope changes and an even more limited number to grant them. Determine a payment process for scope changes.
- Avoid gold plating. Make sure your development team doesn’t overdeliver and add unrequested features. Stick to the project scope.
- Use your online project management software. Your PM software is one of the most important tools in managing scope creep. Make sure it gives visibility to your software team and your clients. Log all scope changes into your PM tool so those changes are sure to update the work plan, the project schedule, and your team’s assigned tasks.
- Know when to say “no.” Not all scope changes are created equal, so you must be firm in stopping unreasonable requests. All scope changes must be carefully considered, but changes to the critical path that will hold up other work must be made sparingly.
- Know the alternatives to “no.” If something must go into the scope, make sure something comes out. Keep a backlog for denied requests and turn it into a follow-up project of additional features. Charge for changes and enforce those charges.
When managed correctly, scope creep can sometimes be a good thing. With a properly written contract, added features can create new revenue. By letting a client know their scope changes will result in additional work hours being billed, your scope creep can become their cost creep.