Scope Creep: What is it, and how to avoid it?

Project Scope Creep

The PMBOK® Guide describes scope creep as “adding features and functionality (project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval”.

Even if the project finally gets completed after all the creep, one might be surprised that it looks nothing like what it was envisaged to be at the beginning of the project.

Why do we have scope creep?

Some of the common reasons for scope to creep are:

  1. Poorly defined requirements (scope)
  2. Last minute change in deliverables (most common reason!!)
  3. Lack of communication regarding project deliverables
  4.  IT managers often fail to negotiate more time and budget when requests for additional functionality are made, and the scope creeps. (Lack of a proper Change Control Process)
  5. Attempting to add uncontrolled changes that haven’t been approved.
  6. Project schedule that has time frames and deadlines that are impossible to achieve.

A common thread across all the above points is the lack of well defined processes.

Monitoring Scope Creep

Changes to the project scope can either be uncontrolled, resulting in creep, or you can put in some controlling factors (processes) that can result in documented changes to the scope that can be managed via appropriate Change Control processes.

Once a change has been approved, the overall scope of the project (timelines, resources, cost) may be impacted and the same can be communicated to all stakeholders appropriately.

How to manage creep? captures techniques to avoid (or at least minimize) scope creep:

  1. Know your project goals from the start
  2. Document the project requirements well and get it approved by the key stakeholders
  3. Use proper Project Management tools to keep a track of the project
  4. Have a well-defined Change Control process
  5. Set and stick to a well-defined project plan/schedule
  6. Have well-defined communication process to communicate with all your stakeholders
  7. Avoid gold plating!

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About the Author: Anuj Seth

Anuj is a certified PMP with over 20 years of Software Development and Management experience. He founded PM Tips in 2020. Contributors are welcome. Drop him a note via the Contact page.

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