What is scope creep?
You have experienced scope creep even if you don’t realize. Have you ever gone shopping at the grocery store, WalMart or Target, Lowes or Home Depot and come back with items that were not on your shopping list?
The humorous cartoon to the left by Thomas A. Tinsley, author of Deadlines and Duct Tape, is a humorous, yet true example. That is scope creep…
- You have a shopping list – a contract/agreement
- You come back with items not on the list – scope creep
The formal definition varies a little based on the industry that you are looking at, but it is essentially the following:
Scope creep is the piling up of small changes that by themselves are manageable, but in aggregate are significant. It can affect any product or service.Content
I like to add the caveat that scope creep is a change that the client has requested that you have implemented without considering either all or a combination of the following:
- the scope of the project as outlined in the contract
- the effect the change could have on the schedule
- the effect the change could have on your fee structure
- the potential risk and the liability the change could involve
I also like to separate scope creep out from scope seep which is changes brought on by you the service provider or product designer.
What does scope creep look like?
We saw above a simplified example of scope creep as it pertains to shopping. Some other examples include:
- IT industry: A client may ask for a new feature to be added to a software or hardware solution that you are working on (also known as feature creep).
- Design & Construction industry: The client asks you design or build something that was not in the original scope of work.
- Coaching & Consulting industries: For a coach, the Client may ask you to speak with individuals not agreed upon in the contract. This could be a Client asking the consultant to do some training or facilitation that was not in the original contract. I once worked for a firm that did an extra retreat and several public meetings with a Congregation that were not in the budget just to get the next phase of the work.
Why is this important?
As noted in my caveat definition above, changing the scope without changing the contract leads to YOU losing money any way that you look at it.
Scope Creep Kills Profits!
You have entered into a contract for services or products based on a set of assumptions that pertain to your time, your employees time, your overhead, your cost of good and services sold, assumptions about the nature of the contract. Deviations from the scope outlined in the contract always cost you money.
Besides the costs just noted, you could be taking on risks that could cost you even more money!
How to manage scope creep?
The primary way to manage scope creep is to have clear contracts/agreements in place with clearly defined scope of work and assumptions. It is then either YOUR responsibility, or your employees or project managers, to follow the scope of work in the contract.
If the client asks to deviate from the contract, you must communicate how this effects the schedule and the cost as it relates to the contract and then give them the option whether to change the contract to implement the new scope.