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    How to Manage Scope Creep

    December 13, 2015

December 13, 2015

How to Manage Scope Creep

Scope Creep

During your project management or freelancing career, you may experience the monster “scope creep” at some point of time. Managing scope creep could be a challenging situation, since it affects deadlines, budget, and milestones. Some projects may extend beyond their scope, which may affect their budget, schedule, and even chances of success.

Every project has a set of deliverables, with fixed budget and agreed-upon tasks that must be completed before the project closure. The schedule and budget of a project may change with even the slightest amount of variation in its scope. This may happen once or several times during the lifecycle of a project.

What is Scope Creep

Scope creep is any change, addition, or update in the whole or a part of the project when it is under way. It may occur when a client or customer that had requested the project change their mind and want something done in a different way. They may request a different outcome as opposed to what they had requested earlier. This may happen once or multiple times during the project lifecycle.

A change in a client’s business may also influence the scope of the project. A new stakeholder may be pulled into the project when you are almost 90% done with it. The development could have significant changes on the way you manage the same, affecting your morale, draining a project budget, or spinning your project out of control.

Even before a project begins, it is important to have clarity around the goals and objectives. What are the deliverables? How important is each stage of the project for the client?

Don’t underestimate the complexity of a project when you begin working on it. It is important to take measures to ensure that the project goes as expected. Break the deliverables into short milestones. Of course, you do not want to face any problems, such as budget shortage or deadline delay.

Fortunately, you can follow a number of strategies to prevent scope creep from affecting your project submissions. Identify key milestones, divide tasks into priority, urgent, and important, and put each of them on the timeline. It will help to keep reviewing milestones when the client requests any scope changes. The set deadlines will help keep the project on track.

When you meet a potential client in Peer Hustle or in any other on-demand marketplace, make it a point to review, plan, and prepare your plan of action and get it approved by the client, so you do not have any major hiccups during the project’s lifecycle.

Horror Story

I have witnessed scope struggles during the beginning of my freelancing career. Since I was the only one working on the project, besides the web developer at the client’s end, I had to handle the work burden on my own. The project was a breeze in the beginning and I was able to complete it successfully. The happy client extended the project and didn’t have any specific guidelines for me in the initial stages of the second project. But the client hired a new web developer, who demanded all sorts of changes at my end, making work really difficult for me.

Since I had happily worked with the client earlier, I prepared myself for the challenges, which sometimes were like a nightmare as I had to make changes to the project when I was already toward completion of the same.

But I braced the challenges at every twist and turn and completed the job to the client’s satisfaction despite the scope creep horror. Gladly I took it on a positive note and as a lesson to be always prepared for such challenges.

Scope Control Starts With the Beginning of the Project


Managing Scope Creep

Preparedness is indispensable to the success of a project. Controlling the scope of a project must begin even before the project starts. It will help to have a corresponding project plan or agreement before beginning the project. Documenting your efforts will have a positive impact on the outcome of the project.

Here are a few guidelines to help you set yourself up to control the scope of the project:

Project vision

Do you understand the vision of the project? Make sure you thoroughly understand the vision before you agree to go ahead with it. It is important to explain how you plan to approach the project to the project drivers. Delivering an overview of the project to those that can influence changes would help you be prepared for scope creep.


What are your project priorities? Are your priorities the same as that of the project drivers? Make an ordered list of all critical items, including deadline, budget, employee satisfaction, feature delivery, for timely reviews throughout the project’s lifecycle. Upon the commencement of the project, use the list to justify your scheduling decisions.


Set deliverables, that is, how you plan to go about the completion of the project. Get them approved by the project drivers. Break the approved deliverables into detailed work requirements, depending on the length of the project. A larger project would require more details. Break down the project into smaller deliverables and get everything in writing. This will ensure that everything is accounted for. Set a predetermined rate for additional tasks and be ready to do justice with them. You want each project to sail smoothly. You can discourage the client to avoid the higher price by sticking to the initial project guidelines. Make sure the client reviews your plan and understands your actions.

Critical path

When the schedule is ready, you may want to use a project evaluation and review technique (PERT) to determine your critical path, which may change over the course of your project. Proper evaluation of the critical path is a must before beginning the project.

Process for changing scope

Expect that you will face scope creep. Do not hesitate to implement change order forms early. It is important to educate project drivers early in the project, so you can easily assess cost and benefit before scheduling any requested scope changes. Define how you plan to manage the scope changes and who will handle them. You may want to set a price for accepting and implementing the requested changes. Or you may also want to let the client know that you are okay to accept the changes, but do not hesitate to inform them that you will need to spend extra time for the requested changes, which may affect submission or deadline of other projects. Your client may accept your terms or reject them. Satisfy your driver constraint and set off on a successful project.

Know when to say no:

Of course, sometimes there may be unreasonable requests. You cannot give the green light to every demand that comes all of a sudden from the client’s side. You do not want to hold up other work in order to make the required changes to critical path elements. Such changes must be scrutinized carefully and made sparingly. This may discourage some of the future requests.

Accept requests:

You cannot reject a client’s request, especially if you have been instructed to do so. The best strategy is to accept the decision and move forward with the request. Constant negative reminders until the completion of the project will only reflect bad attitude. Review the request closely and then document the change. The document should spell out the exact requested change and its anticipated implications. Get all stakeholders to sign on it.

The initial steps of a well-thought-out project management process will help carve out a successful path. You have put in a lot of effort to design a plan and do not want all of it to go down the drain. Sure, the client may be keen to get the changes implemented mid-way, and it may help to argue the case for more time or cost in the event of a scope creep. In most cases, it helps to stick to the plan and base it as the road map to project completion.


Not Something to be Feared

Any change or new request in an ongoing project can bring in stress. But if you are really caught up in such situation and have no other way out, it will help to use your due diligence and understand the scope. Remember, nobody wants their project derailed. But it certainly can get frustrating if a client suddenly wants to part ways with what they had requested earlier, requesting an altogether different change in the project.

However, scope creep is part of successful project management. It isn’t something to be feared; rather, you will be in a better position to remove it altogether from the equation. In every project, there are trade-offs and compromises.

Once you have the control of the project in your hand, you would be in a better position to take it toward completion. When you cannot prevent the scope creep, you can manage it through proper planning and action plan. Informed planning and needs assessment will help prevent major hiccup over the course of the project.

Do not hesitate to calculate the additional hours of work when invoicing the client at the time of project completion. Your scope creep would become their cost creep. Are you ready?



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