Managing Scope Creep

Scope creep can cause a lot of problems. I have uncovered some ways to keep the creep out of scope.

What is scope creep?


Scope creep: adding new requirements to a project outside of the project's agreed-upon scope.

Is scope creep bad?

Yes. Scope creep can lead to all sorts of problems for a project. These include delays, increased cost, decreased quality, dissatisfaction, frustration, over-extended resources, decreased trust, loss of visibility into project progress, and increased risk of project failure.

Is change bad?

No. In fact, it is unavoidable. Having a process to control how changes happen can improve the product quality and grow customer trust.

What causes scope creep?

Scope creep is caused by:

  • A weak definition of project scope
  • Failure to track and manage changes in scope
  • Communication through incorrect channels (e.g., customer talks directly with the developer)
  • Decisions made without the correct authority
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement
  • A long project timeline (which allows the customer to refine or change their ideas)
  • A customer trying to get more for cheap ("While you're in there...")

What can be done to avoid scope creep?

  1. Avoid traps.
    • "While you're in there..."
    • "While you're doing that..."
    • "All you have to do is..."
    • "It will not take that long..."
  2. Keep appropriate communication channels.
    • Have the customer communicate with a designated representative in the company.
    • Have the project manager communicate with the customer’s designated representative..
  3. Communicate regularly with the team and customer.
  4. Track the project’s progress.
  5. Break projects into smaller, functioning deliverables with shorter timelines to avoid long timelines.

What can be done to manage scope creep?

  1. Clearly define the scope of the project.
    • Define requirements that are in the project's scope.
    • Give examples of requirements that are outside the project's scope.
    • Write down the agreed-upon requirements and have the customer sign them.
  2. Clearly define the process for requesting changes.
    • Define the rules of communication.
      • Assign a contact for change requests or create a request form.
      • Define a timeline for change requests or new requirements.
      • Set expectations for how change requests and new requirements will affect budget, timeline, and product quality.
    • Determine the customer’s designated representative and make sure they have authority to request and approve changes. Ask if that person reports to anyone else and see how involved they will be in the project.
    • Document this process and have it signed by the customer.
  3. Manage change requests internally.
    • Document the requested changes.
    • Evaluate the requested changes.
      • What is the change?
      • Why is the change being requested?
      • What effect will the change have?
      • Budget
      • Timeline
      • Workload
      • When does the change need to take place?
      • Who will be affected by the change?
      • Etc.
    • Get approval for requested changes from the correct people.
  4. Communicate with the customer.
    • Clearly define how the change(s) will affect the project budget, timeline, and product quality.
    • Have the customer prioritize changes, if multiple changes were requested.
    • Request additional funding or resources (if required).
  5. Rebaseline the project scope.
    • Update the timeline.
    • Update the budget.
    • Update the priorities.

I hope you have found this helpful.