Keeping a Lid on Scope Creeps

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If you have worked on big projects, you would know that the original size of the project during the requirement stage is not the same as the one you end up with at the time of completion. The project’s complexity grows over time due to the scope creep that can cause delays and cost-overruns. It is important that the project manager puts his/her foot down to avoid the scope creeps that can put the project’s completion in danger. In this post, I will cover the ways to avoid the creep.

What causes scope creep?

One or more of the following factors leads to new features creeping up.

  1. Lack of proper scope documentation.
  2. Lack of sufficient understanding by the customer before the start of the project.
  3. Lack of sufficient control exerted by the project manager.
  4. Improper communication among the stakeholders.
  5. Gold plating – the phenomenon where the project members continue to work on new features of the project that is not there in the original scope, in the assumption that the customer will be delighted by these new features.

How to fight the scope creep?

  1. Flesh out the complete scope before the start of the project and get a signoff from all the major stakeholders. This should be considered as a binding contract that all stakeholders must be asked to adhere.
  2. Divide the project into multiple milestones and create tasks to be completed in each of the milestones. Also spell out the deliverables at the end of each major and minor milestones. At the end of the milestone validate if the progress is per your original plan.
  3. Use tools such as the RACI matrix and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for visually representing the project tasks. This helps your stakeholders to stay in the same page.
  4. Keep a track of your project and make sure all the individual tasks are a part of the scope.
  5. Constantly communicate with the stakeholders and ascertain the progress of the tasks they are doing.
  6. When a new task that is not within the scope comes up, calculate the cost and inform all the stakeholders of the further increase in cost due to the extra task. If the customer asks for it, he/she should be reminded of a possibility of an upward revision in the original cost due to the task.
  7. Fight the tendency to gold plating. Make your developers understand the counter-productivity of the tactic.


Finally, learn to live with it. Even with the best of the intentions and planning, sometimes scope creep happens. When that happens and there are valid reasons behind it, then accept it, without being too inflexible. Create your project plan with room for 10-20% additional delays due to scope creeps, as no complex project can ever be planned to 100% perfection.

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Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji Viswanathan is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and management strategy. He has been blogging for the past 8 years on technology, finance and business related topics.