5 Best Ways for Project Managers to Overcome Scope Creep
Without a doubt, scope creep can be a challenging aspect of your job as a project manager. However, with the right approach, you can overcome this challenge and ensure that your project stays on track.
In this article, we discuss some of the most effective ways to deal with scope creep, including control methodologies to help you manage your situation.
What is scope creep, and how does it happen?
Scope creep refers to the situation where the project’s scope, timeline, or budget expands beyond what was initially agreed upon, either because of the addition of new features, changes in requirements, or unforeseen complications.
Scope creep can occur for many reasons, including poor communication, inadequate planning, or a lack of clear project goals or requirements. It often leads to delays, increased costs, and reduced quality, as the project team may struggle to keep up with the changing demands.
It can also cause conflict between project stakeholders, mainly if there is disagreement over who is responsible for the changes or how to address the resulting issues.
While you can learn to prevent scope creeps, It’s a different ballgame when it sneaks up on you.
How to overcome scope creep when it happens
Scope creep can be a frustrating and challenging situation to deal with in any project. Here are some steps that can help you deal with scope creep when it happens:
1. Acknowledge that there’s a creep
The first step to dealing with scope creep is recognizing it’s happening. Identify the changes that are occurring, and make a note of how they differ from the original project plan. You might also need to trace the causes of the changes in scope, including what the implications are.
Review the scope statement, which outlines the project’s goals, deliverables, and scope boundaries. Compare the changes with the scope statement to determine if they fall within the project’s original scope. If the changes are outside of the scope, then they should be evaluated to decide whether or not they add value to the project.
Although valuable, a change in the project scope can fall outside the project’s constraints, such as budget, time, and resources, making it infeasible. In determining a suitable course of action, you might need to answer the following questions genuinely:
• What potential risks are associated with these changes?
• Are there new opportunities associated with them?
Answering these questions can give you a clear direction for moving forward.
2. Communicate with stakeholders
Communication is a crucial aspect of successful project completion. Everyone involved in the project should know about the slightest modifications. So, discuss the scope changes with the project team, stakeholders, and clients. You don’t have to sweet-talk it—be honest about the situation.
Talk about the implications of these changes, and negotiate new deadlines and budgets if necessary. You don’t have to walk alone on this journey. If the change is not feasible, collaborate with everyone on your team to find alternative solutions.
Ask for opinions, feedback, and suggestions. This drives a better understanding from your team’s end. It will also help you identify how to address stakeholders’ concerns. Remember, communication is not a one-time thing. Keep engaging till the project is completed.
Follow up on initial conversations and keep clients informed about any further developments related to the scope creep.
3. Document the process
Documenting the changes in the project scope helps to ensure that all parties are on the same page. Record new constraints, suggestions, and action courses. This record can be useful for future projects or auditing purposes, where insights into how scope creep was managed.
It could also serve as a reference in case of future misunderstandings.
4. Re-evaluate the project plan
Based on the changes that have been made, you might need to revisit your change management plan. If scope creep is out of control, your change management plan can help you prioritize which requirements are critical and which should be dropped. It can also provide tools to rely on when indecision threatens to exacerbate scope creep.
Re-evaluate the project plan and update it accordingly. Ensure that the new program is feasible in terms of timeline and budget. If the current budget can’t accommodate the latest changes, don’t hesitate to request more funding.
5. Monitor scope closely
There’s a need to monitor the project closely to ensure that scope creep does not occur again. Consider using project management software. This kind of software provides tools for authorized team members to process change requests, allowing you to track your project progress.
Planning Upfront: How Can You Control Scope Creep?
The business environment is dynamic and filled with many uncertainties. While it might be unrealistic to over-control your project scope, you can prevent sudden changes from hitting you or the stakeholders badly through:
1. Waterfall methodology
The waterfall methodology is a sequential and linear approach that involves following a series of defined steps in a fixed order, such as planning, analysis, design, development, testing, and deployment. Each stage of the process must be completed before the project can move on to the next stage.
The approach is based on the idea that project requirements can be fully defined upfront and that the project team can work on each stage independently of the other stages.
The waterfall is often used in situations where the project team has a clear understanding of what the final product should look like and where the client has a low tolerance for changes to the project scope or timeline.
It is well-suited for projects with a fixed budget, as it allows the team to estimate the time and cost required for each stage in advance.
2. Agile methodology
The agile methodology is an iterative and incremental approach that involves breaking the project down into small, manageable parts, known as sprints or iterations. Each sprint consists of a cycle of planning, development, testing, and delivery, and the project team works closely with the customer to get feedback and make adjustments along the way.
This approach allows the team to respond quickly to changes in requirements and to deliver value to the customer faster.
Agile is often used in situations where the project team has limited knowledge of what the final product should look like and where the customer is open to making changes to the project scope or timeline. For example, managers can find this methodology useful during projects that involve developing software, applications, or other digital products where a client’s needs and market conditions can change rapidly.
It is well-suited for projects with a flexible budget, as it allows the team to adapt the project to the evolving requirements and priorities as they emerge.
Heed Experts Warning
Engaging a specialist whose function is to forecast obstacles before they arise and proffer the best possible solutions gives a project manager the ability to prevent casualties on a project. Most importantly, it isn’t enough to hire experts, but heeding their professional warnings is key to overcoming scope creep.
The Denver International Airport (DIA) is a real-world example of scope creep. Its experience with attempting to develop a fully automated baggage handling system resulted in many casualties on the project. The scope creep during the DIA baggage automation project made the project finish 16 months late and was more than 250 percent over budget.¹
The DIA’s experience indicates the importance of:
• Including relevant parties in the planning stages
• Paying attention to fundamental project concerns
• Communicating with all stakeholders and heeding expert warnings about potential obstacles that could impact the timeline and budget
• Breaking projects into smaller chunks using viable project milestones
Scope creep can be a challenging issue for any project, but with the right tools and experts on your side, you can effectively manage scope changes and deliver high-quality projects that meet stakeholder expectations.
CONNECT WITH THE RIGHT EXPERTISE THROUGH ON-DEMAND GROUP
If you want to get ahead of scope creep in your project, you might need additional resources to help you stay on track. On-Demand Group provides you with the human resources you need to effectively manage project changes and mitigate scope creep. Whether you’re looking for project managers, business analysts, developers, or other skilled professionals, you can find the right people to keep your project on course with our personalized staffing solutions. Our experience stretches across team-building and the provision of support for variety of project needs.
Contact us today to learn about how we can help!
1. Wrike – Coolman, Ashley. “Lessons Learned from Project Failure at Denver International Airport: Why Checking Bags is Still a Pain.” https://www.wrike.com/blog/lessons-learned-from-project-failure-at-denver-international-airport-why-checking-bags-is-still-a-pain/ . Published October 30, 2021. Accessed February 14, 2023