Expensive Sentences Creating Scope Creep: How to Turn a $100k Project to an $800k Project

April 27, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Scope Change Control,Scope Management

Expensive Sentences Creating Scope Creep: How to Turn a $100k Project to an $800k Project
By The Grumpy Project Manager

In order to keep the project participants aware of how easy it is to expand the scope, I propose that project managers take a cash register with them to project meetings. This way everyone knows how the scope creep was created in this project.

It is quite common to expand the scope in project meetings if the meeting participants don’t understand how much their sentences costs. One sentence may cost thousands in an IT project. A simple example here is a task of adding an input field to a dialog. Let’s say the original specification asked for a simple text field. A meeting has been arranged to check the done work.

Let’s visit that…


We have now this simple text box here in the dialog like requested. Adding it costs $100 as estimated, tells the project manager and shows that number in her cash register. It is now ready and we can go forward with the project.


Let’s wait a bit, says someone. I didn’t participate making the original specification and am not happy with this. I think we must have a list of values the users can select from. OK. We can develop a combo box with a list of possible values, answers the project manager. Adding this would double the development effort. The cash register sings and shows then $200. The person who made this request is anyway happy as he requested something and was told that it can be done.


Others become active also. Someone says that administrators must be able to edit the default list values. Those should not be hard coded.
This is a reasonable requests, comment others.

OK, says the project manager. We can add the list values to a database or a file and read those from there to the dialog. A bit more work is needed for this.
The project manager plays the cash register. $300 becomes the estimated cost now. The meeting participants look at the number, but are not worried.


Every subsidiary must be able to have their own editable lists of values, says someone. We then need to have several value lists and the data field needs to be able to identify which company is using it, says the project manager. $500 appears in her money counting machine.


It would be nice to have a user interface for editing the list values, so we didn’t need to edit a file or a database, says someone. Others look at the speaker and then at the project manager. Few seconds of silence. Then a bling -sound and $800 becomes the magic number.

Expensive Sentences

We have now increased the scope, that creepy friend of ours, says the project manager. We should take the needed scope management actions. Budget needs to be re-checked as well as the timetable.

But we didn’t increase it that much, says someone. Not really. Only by 700 dollars. And those all were useful additions. We all agreed so.
The project manager lifts a bigger, project cash register on the table. The number it shows is $100,000.

This is the estimated budget we just exploded. In this project we have a lot of small tasks like the one we discussed today. We multiplied the size of this one task by eight in today’s meeting. If we continue along this road and do the same for all tasks then the project’s costs will be…, says the project manager, works a bit with her cash register which then shows $800,000. This was not a 700 dollar meeting but a $700,000 dollar meeting.

The Grumpy Project Manager is a program manager in an international corporation and has over ten years of experience in managing R&D, IT and business development projects. You can read more from the Grumpy PM on his (or her?) blog. S/he can be contacted by email at TheGrumpyProjectManager@gmail.com.

1 person has left a comment

Wow, powerful example. I’ve seen this happen so often. Funny thing is no one ever talks about the impact on the project cost. This may be because I’ve never worked on a project where a good project manager has been involved. Usually someone from the department is just plugged into that role. As a Business Analyst there is a lot I can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening, at least when the lines of communication are preserved and I don’t have users going directly to technical to make requests. I will watch more closely for this in the future. Thanks for the post.

Heather Christian wrote on April 29, 2012 - 6:07 pm | Visit Link

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