Scope creep is inevitable, so how do you deal with it?

Scope creep, we get it all the time and it’s a right pain isn’t it?

Actually scope creep is very common. You will experience it. The problem is how to handle it. If you’re too rigid and stick to a tight plan, you’ll have problems. If you’re too flexible and allow all changes through, you have other problems. There’s a balance.

It’s so easy to get carried away, adding more and more features and functionality to the point where the cost, time and resources no longer match up with the original specification. So this is where you really need to take control. Here’s three quick pointers to help curb the creep…

Large bubbles above a crowd

Photo by Pieter

#1 Clear Scope

First of all, it’s all about taking the time in agreeing the objectives and requirements in detail. Not just the features, but how each feature works and what their dependencies are etc. Budgets and timeframes are also important to discuss to make sure your proposal aligns with your clients’ expectations. 

Everyone must agree on a set list of requirements. Define those requirements together and make sure you understand the ultimate objectives. Then you scope the work in terms of timings and functionality. Whether you have a team who you’re doing this with, or you’re building the product yourself, it’s still important to go through this process. 

Top Tip

From experience I’ve found working collaboratively on a shared worksheet is best. You can also refer back to it throughout the project and change it accordingly. It also gives you a great foundation for testing the project’s functionality once it’s built.

#2 Clear Communication

Project success really does depend on communication. Improving it will maximise success and minimise the risks such as scope creep. 

However, clear communication is a two way street and both parties need to feel confident and open enough to talk to each other about whether something is in or out of scope. A change to a spec may seem minor at face value, but in actual fact it’s going to be another few days worth of effort, undoing what has just been built and developing it again. This inevitably costs time, money and focus which could be directed at other things. Maybe it’s not the right solution, maybe there’s a simpler and quicker alternative. Maybe it’s just so wacky and crazy it’s not even possible to deliver within the budget and timeline! So be clear and transparent about the best solution to solve your problems.

We all follow the same mindset that the “customer is always right”…but sometimes they’re just not. Yes I said it, I’m sorry! Ultimately there needs to be trust in your expertise, because the success of the product you’re building together and the target business should be in your best interest too. It certainly is at Prism. We build honest and trusting relationships with people so it’s never a difficult conversation to have.

#3 Clear Expectations

Set the expectations from the start of the project in terms of rough timings and timelines before diving deeper into the realms of scoping and planning! A LOT of time can be wasted here, so make sure expectations are aligned from the start. 

Setting an accurate timeline is also key, not just for design and development to deliver on time, but to test features, fix bugs, work on feedback, and prepare for launch too. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, so make sure people are aware of those too. 

So is scope creep really that bad?

Scope creep is completely natural, common and in some respects important for your business. Why? Because unless you are very lucky, you will learn more about the product you are creating and the audience you are creating it for along the way which inevitably will change the scope of what you are delivering. 

Top Tip

The initial planning phase of any project is the most valuable to ensure its success.

Defining problems, scoping objectives and deliverables, setting out budgets and timeframes; ultimately making sure you’re all on the same page at every step of the way are the things you need to invest your time in. Only then should you start thinking about dreaming up and planning solutions with details. 

With clear scoping from the start, clear communication and clear expectations throughout, projects will run smoothly. And though scope creep is inevitable with any project, there are ways to be flexible and adaptable in your approach. 

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