Scope Creep: A Hidden Project Killer
By Barney Austen
Scope creep is simply when changes are allowed to the original project scope that are not controlled in any shape or form and lead to project failure. It’s a great term. Creep is exactly what it is – the silent killer that takes you totally unawares and is the undoing of your customer project.
It applies to any of size of project in any business that delivers services to a customer. Whether it’s a single person consultancy or a larger consulting organisation, scope creep affects each without exception.
How do I know if my business projects suffer from scope creep?
Well, in a nutshell, you will find yourself delivering a scope that is different than intended.
How do we find ourselves in this situation?
- The original scope was not documented sufficiently well.
- A pushy customer, not necessarily intentionally but because we continually let them ask for more to “keep them happy”.
- A project manager who does not keep a close enough eye on what’s going on. This is usually more applicable to larger teams where multiple contact points are in place with the customer.
What are the impacts?
- The timelines will be missed and resource that should be working on the next project are stuck working on the “project that never ends”. This costs you money and also the goodwill of the customer of the next project you should be working on.
- The budget will overshoot costing you cash.
- You may not deliver to quality if your team are trying to deliver more in the same timeframe. This will over-stretch and annoy your team and also diminish your customers satisfaction with your project.
Essentially, you have lost control of the big four – scope, time, budget and quality.
What can I do to protect myself?
- Have a properly documented scope that is signed off by both parties that clearly states what is in and out of the scope of the delivery. While you won’t get it 100%, you should try to get as close as you can. And no, it does not need to be a manuscript – whatever is appropriate for your business is enough.
- Have a change management process in place. This does not need to be anything fancy as long as it works. You need to agree with the customer a process that basically says “this is how we will handle changes that are going to affect the timelines, budget or scope”. They need to be made aware that they are responsible as you for sticking to this.
- Ensuring that the project manager, this might be you(!), stays abreast of what is being delivered and ensures that the scope is kept as planned or that the change process is adhered to in the event that the scope is being altered.
These are the biggies. There are others I’m sure, but for most of our businesses, this will be enough to protect you.
Scope creep is inevitable to some extent in most projects that are undertaken with a customer. All of us factor in an allowance for things that may come up. The key is to make sure that it is controlled.
What methods do you use to manage scope creep in your business?
Barney Austen is the founder of http://beta.myprojecttracker.com/ (still in Beta), an easy to use, cost effective, powerful tool to provide both business owners and project managers the key information needed to run their projects efficiently and effectively. Barney Austen’s passion is to help businesses through the provision of functionally relevant, but intuitive products. You can read more from Barney on his company’s blog, available here.
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