The project scope is a project's outline of its requirements and deliverables. When demands and deliverables go beyond the project's original scope, it is known as scope creep. In this article, you will learn what is scope creep and how to avoid it.

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep arises when project scope modifications are made without control procedures, such as change requests. It impacts the project's timeline, resource allocation, budget, and costs. These changes may jeopardize the accomplishment of objectives. 

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What Causes Scope Creep?

To fully understand what is scope creep, you need to know the common causes of scope creep.

1. No Project Scope

You cannot allocate and explain the work to all engaged in a project without knowing its scope. Working with an external team also means you will not have any documentation to refer to if stakeholders want to add new components to your project.

2. Poor Communication

Communication of project scope to all involved is important. The stakeholders won't be able to provide feedback early in a project if the document isn't distributed successfully at the beginning. 

3. Unclear Project Objectives

Without clearly defined project goals, the team members may not know what activities to prioritize and may focus on tasks that don't serve the project's goals.

4. Unrealistic Project Objectives

Ok, so maybe your project objectives are clear—but if they're not something your team can realistically achieve in the amount of time (and within the scope of your project), then your project will inevitably fail or experience scope creep.

5. Too Many Stakeholders

The work and scope can become confusing or unclear if a project owner is not defined. 

Even though the project will involve various stakeholders and collaborators, ensure each team has a project lead who is directly in charge of moving the work ahead.

6. Ineffective Change Control Process

The team needs an efficient change control process, even if the roles are clearly defined. Implementing a change control process establishes a set of guidelines for all project changes instead of letting stakeholders make any changes they want.

7. Last-Minute Customer Feedback

Seeking customer feedback is important because, if received too late, it can impact the project's objectives, intent, scope, and timing. This change may entail altering your current work or beginning from scratch with new specifications and features.

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Why Project Scope Creep is Bad?

Although straying from the original scope can sometimes be acceptable, scope creep is generally detrimental to a project. You might be wondering what problems arise due to scope creep.

  • Lack of experience in project scope
  • Poor establishment of goals
  • Lack of communication

Can Scope Creep be a Good Thing?

Scope creep cannot be completely eliminated in a project since client demands might change in the middle, which might be advantageous for the team in some circumstances.

The next aspect of understanding what is scope creep is learning some advantages of it.

Improves Customer Retention

Accepting change requests demonstrates that the team goes above and beyond for a client. It attracts new clients and creates loyalty among existing ones.

Ensures Market Compatibility

When features are upgraded often, the finished product can quickly satisfy market demands. 

Increases Revenue

If the organization bills customers by the hour or in a similar way, change requests may increase revenue for the business.

Optimizes the Team’s Processes

Increased project goals can lead to the team learning something new. This will give the team a chance to lessen any future scope creep.

Why Proactively Address Scope Creep?

Immediately addressing scope creep is essential because 

  • It can result in large cost overruns, 
  • Team communication breakdown, 
  • Ineffective time management, 
  • Rapid team burnout,
  • Lack of understanding of final deliverables.

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Scope Creep vs. Scope Change vs. Scope Gap

Scope Creep:

It is an unauthorized, slow-moving change. Failure to properly modify deadlines and budgets might result in project discontent or failure.

Scope Change:

Occurs when the client and project manager formally decide to alter the project's parameters, such as adding a feature or increasing functionality. Budget, timeline, and resource modifications are part of this managed process.

Scope Gap:

Occurs when the client's expectations and the project team's understanding of the scope differ. Since agile projects are iterative, scope gaps cannot persist for more than one iteration. Agile programs anticipate that the scope will change.

How to Avoid and Manage Scope Creep

After learning what is scope creep, one must understand the ways of avoiding it.   

1. Be Proactive

Be proactive and include all the stakeholders in the project plan to ensure that everything is understood. To better grasp the clients' vision, requesting that they create a project charter and a list of features is preferable.

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

Prioritize important tasks to keep the team in check and create a list of critical tasks that are needed to be finished first to ensure the successful completion of the project. 

3. Put A Price On It

By charging for extra features, teams may reduce the number of change requests. This will boost the earnings while discouraging pointless change requests.

4. Take Help From Technology

Use project management tools to enhance the team's performance and manage projects efficiently. 

5. Learn When To Say No

Depending on the situation, project managers can reject change requests and explain why the rejection was made. If they cannot do this, request a deadline extension. 

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Scope Creep is Rarely External

To maintain the project schedule, project managers must be mindful of all potential input sources and be prepared to compromise. Here are a few instances of scope creep from both likely and unexpected sources.

Clients

They can request minor changes, which could add up to something big, or demand changes mid-project and result in scope creep. 

Users

User feedbacks are a crucial source of data for ensuring that the project will provide the intended value for the company. Project managers are responsible for decoding them and making changes to deliverables without impacting the scope. 

Internal Stakeholders

Senior stakeholders may occasionally exercise excessive influence on the project due to their position of power. The project manager must communicate how the added scope will affect the project.

External Partners

Sometimes projects may depend on external partners, which makes it important for them to communicate all changes which are bound to occur right at the beginning. All stakeholders should be aware of such external dependencies.

Team Members

If team members are unsure of the project scope, they may accidentally create scope creep. They could deliberately add new features or capabilities to make a procedure easier to use or address an issue.

Project Managers

Due to a lack of or poor change management process, the project managers may become a source of scope creep.

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5 Ways to Fix Scope Creep

The best defense against scope creep is prevention. There are ways to get back on track if the scope creep is out of control. 

1. Lean On Your Change Management Plan

Change management plans can help managers determine which requirements are crucial and which should be dropped. It can also provide the resources needed to decide when scope creep might get out of control, such as a change management control board, final decision-maker, checklists, fees, and so on.

2. Request Funding for Scope Changes

By requesting change fees, clients will not ask for huge changes. If a change must be made, request more resources and funding to implement the necessary modifications. 

3. Guard Against People-Pleasing

The team may risk exceeding the budget or delaying project completion by accommodating all change requests. Team members should be able to understand and identify scope creep and respond accordingly. Changes should be processed through the change management control board.

4. Sign Up for Project Management Software

A project management software provides tools to process change requests through authorized team members. It also provides tools for keeping an eye on scope creep, such as real-time updating Gantt charts, so you can see if your project is still on track even after change approvals.

5. Regroup

Bring all stakeholders together to review the initial project requirement plan, reach a decision, and move the project's completion more sensibly if the scope creep threatens to ruin the entire project.

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FAQs

1. What is scope creep?

Scope creep is when a project's requirements change after it has started, necessitating additional labor or resources in order to create an acceptable final result.

2. What is an example of scope creep?

After a product design has been chosen, customers may request significant revisions to its features. Such projects ultimately take more time and money to finish. This is an example of scope creep.

3. How does scope creep differ from gold plating?

When more features are introduced to a project at the client's request, scope creep may lead to, among other problems, delays, and increased costs. 

When the team itself adds extra features to a project internally, this is known as gold plating. Occasionally, projects are "gold plated" to please management or appeal to clients. It can occasionally be utilized to deflect attention from other project-related problems.

4. How can you avoid scope creep?

Before the project begins, it is important to clearly define the project's needs, confirm that all stakeholders accept the objectives, communicate the risks of scope creep clearly, create a precise scope creep management plan, and train stakeholders to implement this control plan.

About the Author

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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  • *According to Simplilearn survey conducted and subject to terms & conditions with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) as Process Advisors