What Is Scope Creep and Why Is It Important?

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Jul 19, 2022

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Scope creep is one of the major factors contributing to the delay or cancellation of projects. It’s essential to recognize and avoid it, so needless spending and additional work hours can be avoided.

What Is Scope Creep?

What is scope creep? It’s the effect of scope creeping. The constant addition of new goals and tasks to an ongoing project. It could be caused by a lack of proper planning, miscommunication, or countless other factors.

What Causes Scope Creep?

It’s easy to point fingers at the client and blame them for every change in scope. But in practice, things are a bit different. 

Here are some of the major causes:

Poorly Defined Project

When you don’t adequately plan your project, multiple problems can occur. This can be additional spending, chaotic schedules, or a lack of resources and competent staff.

Miscommunication

Not all scope changes are born out of poor planning. Miscommunication can play a significant role in scope creeping. Poorly defined goals, ambiguous tasks, and misunderstanding of the assignment can all hamper a project’s execution.

Lack of Uniformity

Not having an exact idea of what you want or how to achieve it is detrimental to the project and causes project creep. When ordering or working on something, it’s crucial to have a clear, singular view of what you need and how to achieve it.

Inaccurate Planning

Competent scheduling leads to successful execution and avoids scope creep. Poor planning leads to problems. When the work process isn’t optimized, workers are left with too much or not enough time to complete their tasks.

Poor Prioritizing

When building the schedule and priority is set on menial tasks, precious time is taken away from working on important, fundamental parts of the project. Avoiding scope creep is equal parts knowing what to do, when to do it, and in what order.

Examples of Scope Creep

In one of his articles, Tim Malone shares a real-life example of scope creep. While working as an IT manager for a private jet charter management company, he offered to management his services in planning the network for a new hangar. The answer he received was that the contractor they had hired would cover everything.

Sometime after, one of the sub-contractors contacted him, asking how many network drops were needed and where they were to be placed. To cut a long story short, it turned out that none of the network-related tasks were planned, and the matter was left unattended.

Sixty days before the hangar was to be completed, all of the network plans had to be made, which included routers, switches, VoIP phones, wireless access points, among others. The problem was solved through quick thinking and an injection of $60,000 of additional funding.

CD Project Red comes to mind when talking about project creep examples. They were known as one of the most worker-responsible companies in the game development industry. Due to poor planning and the COVID-19 outbreak, they had to force mandatory six-day workweeks during the final months of the development of “Cyberpunk 2077”. There was a backlash from the gaming community, who consider compulsory overtime as a bad practice.

Eventually, the company managed to solve the issue by sharing 10% of its annual revenue with the members of the development teams as compensation.

How to Avoid Scope Creep

Now that the problem is clearly defined and we know what causes it, what can we do to avoid scope creep?

Engage Stakeholders

When it comes to making decisions, stakeholders always have the final word. They have their vision for the future of the company and its profitability. To prevent scope creep, it’s a good idea to engage them from the very beginning.

Share with them your project plans, development documents, and budget estimates. Make sure to explain what is scope creep and why it’s essential to avoid it. Keep them updated on your progress. If some setback is encountered, inform them of it and its possible consequence so you can find the best solution.

Document Project Requirements

Preparation paves the way to success. When it comes to avoiding scope creep, nothing works better than solid planning. First, talk with your client and clear out any ambiguities in the assignment. Break down the project by priority – fundamentals, functionality, and extras. From each part, derive the tasks that will lead to its completion.

Decide how many people your team will need and what their expertise should be. How much time will tasks take them? What technologies and methodology of work will you use? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself to prevent scope creep. Once you have a precise estimate, the chance for negative surprises is significantly reduced.

Create Clear Schedule

The human brain is wired to seek patterns and is more receptive to pre-planned events. A clear work schedule works on both these traits. It increases worker efficiency and provides better results.

A well-made schedule will deepen your understanding of the project’s requirement scope. This way, pitfalls may be circumvented, and you’ll have a solid basis to rely on if something unexpected comes up.

Project Planning Tools

Nowadays, project planning has been fully integrated into the digital world. Software products such as Adobe Workfront or Project Insight offer invaluable help. They include task management, issues reports, timetables, graphs, budget management, and everything you need to prevent project creep.

Many project planning tools offer tech support, training courses, and consultations. This way, the adoption of the software can be made as quick and painless as possible.

Agile Methodologies

In the early 2000s, a group of disgruntled software developers got together and created the Agile Manifesto. This defined a new approach to project management. It’s based on communication with the client, constant testing, and the quick release of products and updates.

The most popular agile methodologies are SCRUM, Extreme Programming, and Kanban. Kanban is the most versatile as it concentrates on improving teamwork and synergy, which significantly reduces scope creeping.

Conclusion

Scope creep is an always-lurking danger. It can lead to additional expenses, loss of time, loss of productivity, and failure of the entire project. To avoid project creep, you must do some careful planning. They should be gone over with the shareholders and clients to properly budget and avoid unforeseen problems. The quality of worker productivity should be encouraged, as it directly relates to the project’s health.

FAQ.


What are some examples of scope creep?

Going over budget due to poor planning is a pretty good example of scope creep. Others include low worker utilization due to poor scheduling. Delaying the project’s conclusion due to additional requirements added late in the work process. Ambiguous goals lead to modifying or a complete rework of the project.

How does scope creep affect a project?

The effects of scope creep can reach from minor setbacks in delivery to the complete cancellation of the project. Every element of the work process may fail and bring some consequence with it. That’s why it’s important to apply best practices in planning and execution to avoid scope creep.

Why is scope creep important?

Scope creep is vital because it may have many unexpected consequences that quickly spiral out of control. When planning a project, ask yourself what is scope creep, how can it be avoided, and if it cannot be avoided, how can its effects be mitigated?

 

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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