Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned. You commit to checking off a few tasks for the day, and suddenly a change to the budget or revision in the project brief takes you back to square one. What was supposed to be a clear and straightforward project now requires longer development times, more resources, or aggressive deadlines. The productive day you wished for took a turn didn’t expect. This phenomenon, called scope creep, happens to the best of us.
In the tech and chip industry, engineers are especially attuned to rapid, iterative changes every day. But what if a project’s scope strays too far from the script? Managing a team of engineers on the edge of burnout isn’t pleasant or productive. In fact, it should be the norm to have processes in place to minimize unreasonable project changes for maximum team productivity.
If left unmanaged, scope creep can kill a team’s productivity, add unnecessary stress, and increase costs. So how can you tame scope creep?
Managing scope creep can be simple with a few practical, proactive steps. In this article, we’ll explore what scope creep means, what causes it, and what you can do to minimize it.
What is scope creep?
Scope creep refers to unexpected additions to a project’s original requirement or brief during its progression. A project that started with three features now requires six or seven additional features. It can happen when a project isn’t properly defined, documented, or controlled. Scope creep is also known as “requirement creep,” “feature creep,” and sometimes even “kitchen sink syndrome”.
Top causes of scope creep
“Gold plating” refers to instances when the project team adds more features without the client’s consent. These additions are tacked on to please the client, but they also create the risk of reworking unacceptable deliverables and throwing off agreed-upon costs.
Unclear project definition
A project without clear expectations creates confusion for teams and more opportunities for changes. Oftentimes, clients don’t know how to define project requirements either, setting an “I’ll know it when I see it” benchmark instead, which is a hard criterion to meet.
It’s easy to run ahead without client feedback, but lack of proper communication can break trust in the relationship and lead to unmet expectations.
How to manage scope creep
Documentation of a project’s strategy and progress helps clarify and answer questions about key deliverables, action items, and priorities. This includes budget breakdowns, weekly meeting recaps, design specifications, analysis reports, milestones, and timelines. Documenting everything keeps everyone on the same page about project requirements, as well as any new requests or ongoing changes.
Develop consistent client communication
Continuous feedback is crucial to moving a project forward in the right direction. It’s a good idea to involve the customer and users early on in the process to outline deliverables. Discuss any concerns or updates anyone may have and what it means for the scope. Consistent client communication will reduce major unplanned changes to a project and reduce last-minute frantic situations.
Have a change protocol in place
A formal process for managing changes in the scope is the best way to control the situation and create transparency between stakeholders. Consider assigning a go-to person or team to assess and approve requests. Make sure to share this process with the client and address further payment changes. This will prevent any messy miscommunications and siloed decisions as well as unreasonable demands.
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