Managing Scope Creepers

Author: Larry Woods on 03/04/2015

Have you heard of scope creeping? If you haven’t yet, and you plan on working in with top digital marketing agencies or web development firms, understanding why scope creeping is an all too common occurrence in the digital world can greatly improve your ability to avoid it while continuing to build relationships with your clients.

In nearly every project which I’ve been involved with as a Project Manager some level scope creeping has occurred.  On rare occasions an idea is brought to fruition that needs to be included in order to achieve the overall phase 1 goal of the project (in which case a change needs to be made to the project specifications.) However, more often than not, additions should be noted and saved for implementation during later phases.  If these additional tasks aren’t managed properly, they can cause serious problems for everyone involved and result in a subpar project outcome.


The following are a few key steps which can be implemented early on in order to avoid scope creeping later on.


Ask questions

When you ask questions, it gets people thinking.  And when you get people thinking, it can also inspire creativity. I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  When initial project discussions begin, this could not ring more true. If you’re unfamiliar with your client or their industry, it’s important to ask any questions that might come to mind, even if you think they might be stupid. In my experience, clients have been more than happy to shed light on any questions, especially if you’re still getting familiar with their business.


Provide a detailed statement of work


Once questions have been answered and there is a clear understanding of the project goals, it is essential to provide documentation/communication that clearly defines all of the steps which will be required to reach the initial phase of completion. In addition, documentation should define any deliverables that the for which project stakeholders will be held responsible. In order to ensure all parties are in agreement on the details of the project, I’ve found it helpful to walk through the specifications with the client rather than simply “throwing it over the fence” via an email.  


Don’t be afraid to say, “No.”  


As I’m sure any project manager can attest to, many clients will ask about “add-ons” well after the project has begun. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it indicates the project stakeholders are thinking about the project and are enthusiastic with its potential. From a business perspective this ultimately increases revenue for your company while resulting in a more comprehensive product. However, it is important to note that adding functionality in the middle of a project can have a devastating impact on the delivery and overall quality of the project, especially in the digital world.  As “add ons” are brought up it’s important for the project manager to take note of any wishlist items and document them in preparation for phase 2.  

While these tips are just a few suggestions, hopefully they can help managers and clients understand the importance of proper scope management.  And as devastating as scope creeping can be to a project, it doesn’t have to be seen as completely negative if properly managed.