4 Ways to Avoid Project Scope Creep
Project scope creep is a problem that many businesses have to deal with. Scope creep is when the original agreed-upon project changes and grows over time to require far more work than initially planned. This really eats into your profits and causes delays in your business. Here are four steps that you can take to avoid scope creep during the planning process and on an ongoing basis.
What Causes Scope Creep?
To be brutally honest, scope creep often happens because you're working with bad clients who want to push their luck and get as much out of you as possible while making a minimal investment. This is common in the world of freelancing and consulting.
However, scope creep is not always intentional. Sometimes, clients simply aren't very good at explaining what they want or need from a project. They might assume that you know what they're talking about when really they haven't explained themselves clearly enough for an accurate assessment to be made on their behalf.
Equally, scope creep may be down to miscalculations or underestimations on your part. Perhaps your initial assessment wasn't thorough enough and you didn't realise just how much time and resources the project would require.
So that's why scope creep happens, but what can you do to stop it?
#1 - Strong Communication
They say that prevention is better than the cure, so avoid scope creep by improving your communication skills. It's important that you have open dialogue with your clients so they can give as much detail as possible about their needs from day one. Work together, not apart – it will save both parties time in future.
#2 - Put Clear Boundaries in Place
If you want to avoid scope creep, it's vital that your clients understand the boundaries of their project. Set out in clear terms what is included and what isn't so that there are no misunderstandings or nasty surprises down the line. If you do this, there's no room for disagreement or uncertainty, which will save everyone time in the long run.
For example, if you're working on a website for your client, make it clear that they can't expect any additional functionality to be added after the deadline. Put everything in writing and refer back to this document as often as possible – it's much easier than having arguments later because something wasn't included.
#3 - Be Vigilant
Scope creep is more likely to happen if you're not vigilant about it on an ongoing basis. It's easy to get swept away by the excitement of a project and lose sight of what you initially set out to do, so don't let this happen.
You should create a script that you can use when a client makes a request beyond the scope of the project. It should read something like: "That sounds great, but unfortunately this is not within the scope of the project. I understand you want to make this change, but it will require an extra cost. Would you like to set up a meeting to discuss this further?"
It's important to be firm and not be tempted to capitulate for fear of losing the client. Be sure of your value and what you're offering. Often, business owners say "yes" to please their clients but learning to maintain your boundaries is a better way to earn their respect.
#4 - Offer a Logical Solution
Scope creep may feel like a problem, but it can actually be an opportunity to offer your client something that they didn't even know they wanted.
For example, if you're working on a website for one of your clients and they want some extra functionality added after the deadline, this could be an opportunity for you to provide additional services and charge them accordingly..
If you're able to think outside the box and offer a logical solution, your client won't feel like they've been let down or that their needs haven't been met and you will be fairly recompensed for your work.
There are many ways to avoid project scope creep but, most of all, it's important to stay vigilant throughout the project. Keep strong lines of communication with your clients, be clear about boundaries and don't let yourself get swept away by excitement because you can lose sight of what you initially set out to do. In addition, it's also important to offer a logical solution if scope creep occurs so that your client doesn't feel let down or disappointed in any way. If you outline and maintain clear boundaries, you can keep your projects manageable and profitable from now on.