Scope Creep: How to Effectively Manage Scope Creep (Part 2)

Posted by Emilija

Plan for Scope Creep

Project Scope CreepPoor planning can attribute to scope creep. However, it is not necessarily the root cause.  Scope creep results from the identification of additional requirements throughout the life of the project, which by the very nature of any project, is an inevitable outcome. Requirements definition is a planning (or also known as discovery) phase activity of most projects. Again, however, the identification of additional requirements is quite common beyond the initial planning stage.  Effectively planning for the discovery of new requirements and establishing project milestones for reviewing these requirements is an effective method for facilitating change control. It is nearly impossible to anticipate all the requirements during project planning. Therefore, establishing clearly defined change control processes is imperative for any project’s success. Planning and communicating the process for change dramatically reduces the element of surprise for all project participants, because let’s face it: no one on a project team looks forward to unanticipated surprises that have a negative effect on the project delivery.

Enforce Change Control

Change control outlines the business justification for adding or deleting requirements that were agreed upon earlier in the project. The modifications can and will most likely result in additional costs as a consequence of the additional effort imposed on the project and its resources. At project initiation, change control processes should be defined and the responsibility for change management processes must be established.  It is always a good idea to have the initiator of the change request be directly involved in the change control. Likewise, the effects to various components of the project should be quantified and evaluated against the value of the enhancement to the requirements. The project sponsors need to be informed of the impact of change on the time, cost, and quality components of the project and should consider these components as key inputs to the decision-making process.  This exercise quickly differentiates the “nice to have” requirements from the “must have” requirements.

Get Formal Sign-off

Scope creep occurs more frequently when formalized sign-off does not take place. This is largely due to an underlying fear of accountability when the requirements are not completely understood. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to establish accountability within the project framework and to quantify to a sufficient level the impact of change. This ensures that the project stakeholders understand what is and is not to be delivered. Enforcing formal signoffs that record the impact of change on time, cost, and quality is the very essence of effective change control.  The advent of email has allowed for a higher level of comfort with sign-off. Many stakeholders are reluctant to physically sign a document, but have no problem responding via email that they agree with the newly proposed requirements.

Know When to Say ‘No’

A project manager’s greatest responsibility is to deliver a quality product in a timely manner at a minimal cost. Scope creep most often negatively affects the timeliness and cost-effectiveness of the project. Effective change control weighs the benefits of change against the value of the enhanced requirements across the project’s time, cost, and quality. Unfortunately, project managers rarely have unilateral authority to decide what is included or excluded from scope, although they certainly can influence the decision.  A strong-willed project manager at times must simply say “No” – or at a minimum, vote “No” if given the opportunity – to effectively influence the project stakeholders to make a decision that is the most beneficial to the business goals in relation to the project. Remember, project participants frequently rely on the project manager’s best judgment as to what should be attempted within the scope of the project’s time, cost, and resources.  Alternatives for phased-in approaches allow for the iterative benefits and compromises to add requirements, which results in win-win scenarios for those who prefer additional enhancements and those who do not.

Plan to Manage Change to Overcome Scope Creep

Scope creep will most likely present itself within the lifecycle of most projects. Therefore, it is important to communicate the process for addressing change at the project’s kick-off meeting. Project participants that have a clear understanding of the components in the delivered project are less likely to ask for enhancements in the mid-stream.

It is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure that all project stakeholders have been communicated to and understand the objectives of the project. Likewise, when requirements are added and change is inevitable, it is important to document the business justification and to outline the specific impacts to the project’s timing, cost, and resources. This will ensure that all of the decision-makers have the necessary information to weigh the value against. Project managers are typically influential members of project teams and should utilize their influence to advise what is best for the overall project.

A project manager is no stranger to obstacles. Each and every project presents itself as a challenge to deliver an end product that fulfills a project’s requirements while being considerate of time, cost, and quality. Scope creep can be a true threat to any project, so it is important to plan to manage scope creep regardless of the project’s actual scope. This advanced planning of scope creep not only allows the project team to effectively control the phenomenon when it occurs, but it also ensures that scope creep will not be a detrimental obstacle to the project’s success.

This is a guest post written by Tom Schaetzle.

Vice President of Professional Services

Galvin Technologies

Author Bio:

Tom Schaetzle is responsible for corporate strategy and service delivery for high-end web-based applications at Galvin Technologies. He has managed web strategy and software engineering services for a customer base ranging from small-cap startups to mid-cap organizations who are looking to improve business processes by maximizing the use of information technology. Responsibilities at Galvin Technologies include delivery strategy and management, quality assurance, business development, talent acquisition, and human resource administration.

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