How to Prevent Scope Creep from Ruining Your Projects
By Bob Speyer, Web Success Team
There is the old adage that two things are certain in life, “Death and Taxes.” With business you can also add Scope Creep. Every business has experienced it, some more dramatically than others. It is one of those gremlins that attaches to projects and wreaks havoc with proposals and client relationships.
Scope Creep refers to any unanticipated or uncontrolled change in a project’s scope of work. It can occur at any stage of a project from proposal to the entire workflow. Creep occurs when the scope of a project is not adequately defined, documented or controlled. The client or vendor can be at fault. It can interfere with the smooth running of a project, damage relationships, create unnecessary stress and loss of income.
How it Happens
Scope creep takes on many forms. Here are a few of the most common reasons why it happens:
- Something for Nothing Attitude: A customer has limited resources and during the process adds to the scope of the project and expects to get free value added because they are paying you anyway.
- Improper Identification: A proposal has been poorly defined and does not meet the goals and objectives of the client.
- Weak Project Management: The project runs into unanticipated obstacles that require either more time or costs to achieve the objectives. If subcontracted out, problems can occur with your vendors needing more compensation to complete tasks.
- Poor Communication: Clients are not updated through contact reports on a periodic basis and made aware of the progress of the project, obstacles, unforeseen issues or deadlines.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Both the client and vendor have unrealistic expectations as to the value and performance of the work. In an eagerness to please or inexperience of both parties, a project can be doomed to fail.
A Pound of Prevention
Scope Creep may be inevitable, but it can be mitigated. It starts with the proposal stage. In crafting a proposal, make sure you understand the goals and objectives of the client. It is best to get them in writing and then detailing the deliverables and how you will achieve them. Set a budget for the work and clearly define any activity that is outside of the project scope. For example, if you are developing a website for a client who wants their videos on the site. You should identify if they will be giving you the raw files and you have to edit and stream it for the web or it will be provided in a clearly defined format. Clarification reduces miscommunication and controls costs.
Within the proposal, make sure you include a section that is “outside” the scope of work. Clearly state any change or modification to the proposal will be an additional cost item at a predetermined rate and will have to be agreed upon in writing by the client before any work will be performed. This sounds obvious, but often times scope creep occurs from the best of intentions. A client will request a change and the vendor will start to implement it thinking it is easy to perform until it gets more involved than anticipated. Going back to the client to ask for more money can create a problem. If a client is on a tight budget, let them decide what changes are truly important to include. Money has a way of clarifying needs with wants. What is necessary and what isn’t. Making the client the decision maker and in control of their budget will create harmony.
Scope Creep may not be altogether preventable, but managing a project requires brutal honesty and courage to tell the client in a clear manner what they will get from the project; and if there are changes outside of the scope they be made aware of the cost overages and have the right to decide to pay for it or do without. Keeping the communication open and the client a part of the progress of the project and valuing their input is essential for a successful conclusion. Make them a partner in the project and a valued member of the team will minimize any misunderstanding or bumps in the road. They will appreciate your candor. By implementing these simple rules, you can make your project run smoother, ensure a successful outcome and maintain a satisfied client.
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June 21st, 2010 11:49 /
Bob, great article. I sent it over to some of my project managers as a reminder.
June 22nd, 2010 11:34 /
Thanks for commenting, Steve. Glad we could help.
December 17th, 2012 2:01 /
Really very helpful information, but what if in a project that involves construction of a house and the client makes changes to the room sizes during execution and after erection of walls, the sizes which were agreed by him on the architectural layout but after erection he realized that rooms were not as spacious as he visualized on the layouts?