Horrifying Scope Creep: How To Deal With This Demon

By Caroline Dau • October 31, 2013

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought today would be an appropriate time to post a recap of some of the conversations I had with fellow Project Managers and Producers at the DPM Connect event I volunteered to help organize.

In true PM style we decided to add some structure to your “average” networking event. There was an overarching theme of “What Keeps You Up At Night,” with “Scope Creep”, “Nightmare Conversations”, and “Design Frankenstein” serving as topics discussed throughout the evening.

This post will focus on the insight that I gained during my time discussing scope creep, an issue that many Project Managers must face at some point.

Documentation is key

It is so important to keep organized documentation throughout the entire life cycle of a project. This definitely includes the original scoping phase in which a scope is discussed and agreed upon. Having a document with details on the scope can be a lifesaver when scope creep comes to play.

Clients may think that a new feature they mention after the project has began is included in the original scope when it is not. Having that detailed document to show them will help them understand what was signed off on, and what is a new request.

It was also discussed that there are times that a project is so close to completion, and while the client is reviewing they come back with a lot of changes they want made. Often times they are confused on why the product is the way it is. Being able to show that client all of the steps that were taken to get to the final product and the processes / conversations that occurred internally, as well as with the client team to get to that point at least shows them why the product is the way it is. At this point they are far more likely to be willing to discuss additional budget and timeline for those requested changes.

Create an opportunity

Scope creep does not have to be so horrifying! Use it as an opportunity to renegotiate. If a client has additional features they feel are important to solve the business goals of their company you should welcome additional requests. That being said the client must understand that additional requests likely means additional time needed and additional budget requirements.

scopecreep1Learn to say no

Often times as a Project Manager we are hardwired to be people pleasers. We always do our best to accommodate others. While these qualities are great a majority of the time, when it comes to scope creep they can be a problem. It is important to stop the creep as soon as it starts as not to allow it to continue to balloon out of control. When a feature comes up that was not a part of the original scope promptly let the client know that this feature was not originally discussed, and therefore the effects on the budget and timeline will need to be discussed. Referring to that in-depth documentation discussed above will allow you to show the client the limitations of the agreed upon scope, as opposed to just telling them.

Clients are not just being mean!

At the end of the day we are all here to help our clients achieve their business goals. Over the course of a long project (some can take years), it is understandable that the needs of a business will evolve and change. By understanding that the clients are only making requests based on what will benefit their business, you can better approach your scope discussions. Enter into a conversation about the best way to approach these changes in need and who knows what innovative ideas may occur! If you know a project will be a long one it may be beneficial to set break points where you can discuss the scope and adjust as need be.

For all of you that are dealing with some form of scope creep know that you are not alone. While it can seem like a daunting task to manage it is doable. Have you ever had to deal with this issue before? If so how did you handle it?

Also, I would like to extend a sincere thanks to all of the Project Managers who came out to the October DPM Connect event and took the time to share their experiences. It was a fabulous evening and I learned so much!

Caroline Dau

Senior Producer at Verbal+Visual. I love long walks on the beach (literally) and to-do lists.

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