Scope creep is when a project sneaks past the boundaries you thought you’d set in the original objectives. The consequences clearly aren’t good for the design agency, but they can end in dissatisfaction for the client too.  Scope creep can leave everyone unhappy.

The origins of scope creep
Uncontrolled changes or never-ending growth in the project’s scope happen when a project hasn’t been properly defined, isn’t being carefully documented or there is no process of control.  Additional work and new features get incorporated without a corresponding increase in resources, schedule or budget.

There are the big obvious changes to scope, which are easier to pinpoint and manage.  Even then ambiguities can mean you sometimes don’t get proper recompense. But it’s the insidious stuff you really need to watch for; those jobs that “won’t take long” or “just involve a tweak”.

The dangers of scope creep
The obvious downside is that you as an agency are out of pocket. And if you give in to changes, you’ll more than likely get more of them in the future. Changes usually mean schedules overrun, which can have a knock-on effect on other projects and a detrimental effect on relationships with other clients.

It results in unhappy staff too; stressed account handlers whose control of the budget and timelines has been usurped by someone higher up agreeing to changes that aren’t in their programme. Designers who are staying late to get the work out on time and are angry that their original work has been cast aside.

Worse still, often none of it is worthwhile. At the end, you find the project has gone off piste. It doesn’t get delivered on time. It no longer works for users. It’s drifted away from the client’s original objectives. Bad feeling arises between you and your client because he or she isn’t getting the results anticipated. The client wants high quality, low costs and speed of delivery but hasn’t understood how much the quality will suffer if they compromise on the others.

Why is it scope creep so difficult to control?
If scope creep is so bad for everyone, why does it happen? There are many reasons; an inability to say no, a determination to exceed client expectations, the difficulty of telling the client something they’ve seen on a competitor website won’t work for theirs. What they all boil down to is a desire to please the client.

The solution is having a good process to manage scope creep and stop it getting in the way of happy customers, motivated staff and a healthy profit.

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