How to Prevent Scope Creep

Scope creeps are definitely the worst of the nightmares that project managers, busy with large software development projects, are often haunted by. Not only this tendency causes huge amount of stress at an individual level but causes many projects to fail being on time, within budget and in some scenarios result in severing of contracts.

Project Scope

A detailed project scope encompasses all tasks that are needed to be performed in order to achieve the desired result. The desired result would be the product or service envisaged by the customer even before a single task has been performed. The Project Scope Statement in the Project Initiation Document deals with this part, i.e., preparing a tasklist to achieve the outcome per customer’s expectation. An experienced project manager often uses this portion of the document as an opportunity of defining what is in scope and what is out of it for the project.

What Causes Scope Creep

When the scope of the project is expanded beyond the already agreed upon limits scope creep takes hold on the process of the software development project. This tends to happen due to a number of reasons.

  • The commonest of the causes include trying to accommodate customer’s additional requests. Vaguely written project scopes often persuade customers to believe in features to be implicitly available with the product which is actuality is not so.
  • Lack of understanding or underestimating the requirements of the project by a project manager.
  • The involvement of several stakeholders, particularly in the client’s side, increases the possibilities of confusions and poor interpretation of project scope.
  • Weakness in controlling the flow of the process by the project managers.
  • Unforeseen challenges during the phase of software development and no or little change control.

How to Prevent Scope Creep

Contrary to other difficulties during a process of software development scope creep affects everyone. It causes financial distress (in terms of cost creep, lowered return of ROI etc) to all the stakeholders involved, delay in the launch of the product and other. For preventing scope creep,

  • Project managers need to be ultra vigilant from day one
  • Act with the spirit of a team to collaborate between business units (IT and non-IT)
  • Document a project scope covering smallest of details and have it approved.
  • Speak with client to understand their vision as well as business process to avoid nasty surprises later on.
  • Have a well planned, documented and approved change request process in place.
  • Use offline and / or online meeting procedures and project management software to help everyone involved trace the progress and place requests for modifications in time.
  • Apply a golden rule that relevant as much outside the realms of digital world as inside it, which means, decline to entertain unreasonable requests.

As a project manager preventing scope creep helps keeping one’s company and career safe and mind sane. Realistically, one hundred percent elimination of scope creep is hardly ever possible. But if the added request, cost and man hours are agreed to be paid by the client then there remains hardly anything to complain about, except perhaps the delay in the onset of the next project.