Scope Creep and How to Control It

Scope creep is a term that is used to describe the expansion of the original goals of a project, or a deviation from that project’s goals. It can be a huge problem in business, especially industries that do a lot of “client work”, and this costs valuable time and money. The end result may not even resemble the original intent!

There are several reasons why this may occur — it could be the fault of the external market, the client, or even your own processes. The disruption could be caused by changes in the market that require some action or adjustment to the plan. Perhaps the client adds or changes goals after the start of the project. Or it could be that your team doesn’t have an adequate understanding of the objectives in play or is too lenient with client requests or the inclusion of internal suggestions. Here, we’ll tackle a few of the basics for controlling scope creep in your operation.

Understand Client Requests

When you do not have a clear understanding of what the client wants, your project is at risk of falling prey to scope creep. You need to know what the real goals of the project are in a specific sense. Instead of knowing they want you to build a new website, you need to know that they want to increase their online sales by at least 15% over next quarter and that implementing user-friendly design has been a barrier in the past. Knowing their end goal will help you take the steps necessary to get there.

Listen Actively

One way to be sure you understand client goals is to actively listen to them. When they present an idea, ask questions to be sure that you fully understand what their intent is. With active listening also comes the need to be critical of client ideas. Being critical does not mean that you turn down every idea that comes to the table. Instead, help your client evaluate their ideas — after all, this is likely part of the service your client has contracted with you for in the first place. Open and engaged communication is always one of the best tools in your arsenal.

Set Limits

Sometimes, clients may push more and more ideas that expand the project beyond its original framework. While some may view this as a client trying to take advantage of your business, it should instead be looked at as a client having new ideas. With new ideas, however, comes the need to set limits — tell your client when you can and cannot incorporate new ideas and goals and always keep the end goal in mind. If your client is pushing an idea that doesn’t support the project and its objectives, that’s something that needs to be communicated. This goes just as much for internal conversations with the team handling the project. Open communication of ideas is critical, but in the end the scope has to be defended or the project may fail to meet its goals in the necessary frame of time.

Reevaluate Budgets and Deadlines

If developments are pushing for the expansion of a project, suggest that budgets and deadlines be reevaluated. Clients are not necessarily involved in the actual work that goes along with the project, and their expectations need to be managed as closely as a given task is. It is very possible that they do not recognize how new ideas change the course of work. Once they see how the changes affect the project, they will have the perspective they need to be a more productive part of the overall effort. If you have a project management solution like Scoro Software, invite the client to be an active participant. In addition to facilitating communication for your team, this can keep your clients on the same page as well.

Use Contracts

When you are contracting with a client for a project, get everything in writing. This is especially true for the original goals of the project. If the project begins to stray, reference the original plans. Having a clear written guideline of what the intentions are for the project and how you plan to achieve them is a great way to reality-check your project and avoid scope creep.

Lautaro Martinez is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who contributes articles and advice for business leaders and tips for the aspiring entrepreneur.