Scope creep is a term that is used to describe the expansion of the original goals of a project, or a deviation from the project’s beginning goals. It is also known as “requirement or feature creep” and is a huge problem in project management and businesses, especially those who work with clients.
The problem with scope creep is that it causes projects to take more time than was originally anticipated. This costs valuable time and money, and often results in a project that does not even look like it should have based on the original plan.
There are a number of reasons that scope creep may occur when your business is working on a project. This can be the fault of the external market, the client, or even your business. The external market can cause scope creep by a change in market conditions that require changes in the market or the actions of a competitor. The client may ask for more than they originally had or fail to clearly explain their goals.
Finally, your business can fail to understand the project, be too lenient with client requests, and do a number of other things. Here are several ways to help control scope creep on your big project.
When you do not have a clear understanding of what the client wants, it is highly like that the project will fall prey to scope creep. Your client should have very specific goals. Instead of knowing they want you to build a new website, you should know that they want to increase the number of online sales by at least 15% by next quarter by implementing a more user-friendly design. Knowing their end goal will help you take the steps necessary to get there.
One way to be sure you understand client goals is to actively listen to them. When they present an idea, ask questions to be sure that you fully understand what their intent is. With active listening also comes the need to be critical of client ideas. Being critical does not mean that you turn down every idea that comes to the table. Instead, help your client evaluate their ideas. A collaborative environment is one of the best ways to prevent scope creep on their project.
Clients insist you use their set of tools so that you can seamlessly transition into their business. Whilst this is standard ensure that you are comfortable in using them. Otherwise you’ll be stuck figuring out how to work them as opposed to actually completing the project. If you feel that a particular tool will be ineffective don’t be scared of recommending collaboration tools to your client – more often than not they have thought about using them, and your suggestion merely confirms intentions were spot on.
Sometimes, clients may push more and more ideas that expand the project. While some may view this as a client trying to take advantage of your business, it should instead be looked at as a client having new ideas. With new ideas, however, comes the need to set limits. Tell your client when you can and cannot incorporate their ideas without straying from the original goal. Always keep the end goal in mind and tell them if an idea is not relevant.
If your client insists on broadening the scope of the project, suggest that the budget and deadline be re-evaluated. Clients are not necessarily involved in the actual work that goes along with the project. It is very possible that they do not recognise how new ideas change the course of work. Once they see how the changes affect the budget and deadline, they may be more willing to reconsider their ideas.
When you are contracting with a client for a project, get everything in writing. This is especially true for the original goals of the project. If the client begins to stray from the original idea, reference the original plans. Having a clear written guideline of what the intentions for the project are and how you plan to achieve them is a great way to avoid scope creep.
David, Blu Mint Digital co-founder documented his own troubles with scope creep in his entrepreneur story.