Scope creep – it’s something that inevitably sneaks up on you when working on a project. As a project manager, it’s so important to know what scope creep is, and some ways on how to prevent it, in order to keep your project on track.
In this blog, we focus on three things: what project scope creep is, who causes it, and some ways to prevent it.
What Scope Creep Is
We like this definition:
“Scope creep in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project's scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.”
As a project manager, one of the biggest issues causing scope creep comes from the temptation to make things work, while still maintaining the existing budget and timeline, without making your client or stakeholders aware.
An important step to combat this is to define a process to explain how changes will be made and who will do them. Ensure that there’s a set number of people who can request the changes and, equally, a limited number of people to grant them. Make sure you also create a separate process for getting additional payments to fund the scope changes.
Saying “no” to a customer or asking for a change request to be submitted can be difficult. However, it’s beneficial that these conversations happen sooner rather than later in a project when you could otherwise find yourself out of budget and out of time.
The easiest way to explain how best to prevent scope creep is to show you who is likely to cause it. Below are three examples of key stakeholders in a project that can, and do, cause scope creep as well as how to prevent it from happening.
1. A Third-Party Supplier
Having an external company with their hands in your project will mean that there’s a lot of factors that could put your project at risk. This could be a content provider, a third-party API, or basically anyone who you are relying on externally to complete your project.
It’s important to establish what kind of impact they can have as early as possible such that you can manage the risks.
Start by identifying your third-party project dependencies in your kickoff meeting. What element is the third-party involved in and how could that impact your project brief? Take, for example, a global cloud service provider that’s handling business-critical workloads for a new business service. Their main advisory and support facility is based in a different country and time zone – and knowing this, you’ll need to establish how much this will affect the overall project.
Is there contingency or another method in place for getting your required support quicker? Do they have a support team in your country? How much time would this add to the project if there were difficulties in completing the API?
It’s hard to cover every possibility. However, making this part of your project management process will mean that you’re best positioned to avert the negative impact of any potential risks.
2. The Client
This blog would be remiss in not mentioning the client. They’ve one of the biggest inputs into the project and should be actively involved throughout.
This root cause of project scope creep is in fact easier to spot, as most project managers are already focused on managing the expectations of, communicating with, and potentially “controlling” the client.
Stay alert to the client suggesting a new way of doing things. They may be requesting a small addition, but this could slowly escalate. Also, question their intentions when they change their mind on what was agreed. As always, stay honest with the client and try to avoid phrasing your responses so that you’re not consistently saying “no” to the client all of the time.
3. Your Team Members
As the project manager, you have full control over what work packages are assigned to team members. Use this responsibility to ensure that your team members are fully aware of the brief and what the end goal is. This avoids the team being unguided and more likely to take on extra workload or make decisions that haven’t been fully thought through.
It’s essential that the team members are involved when setting the scope – because this will not only give them insight on what they’ll be working to create or build but also gives them the chance to provide feedback and suggestions at the earliest possible time.
Ensure that everyone is being a team player. The most successful projects are completed by teams that work well together.
Overall, preventing scope creep means that you need to stay vigilant, be available for your stakeholders to approach you, and remember to have the ability to say “no” and be honest with your clients.
Do you have any personal examples of project scope creep? How did you manage the request or change? Have you ever had a scenario where your project was changed for the better because of it? Please let us know in the comments.