What happens when the scope of a project is not laid out in precise terms at the onset of the project? Scope creep – that’s what happens. It is that tendency for a project to cover more tasks than what was originally planned.
Being able to complete additional work always has a positive impact on clients, but only if the team is not negatively affected by the pressure of extra tasks and the agreed upon deadline is still met. In most cases, this proves to be a tall order, as figures show that only 32% of projects are completed successfully on time and within budget.
It is reasonable to go above and beyond to impress a client, but project managers have to draw a line when it comes to the scope of work. It’s all fun and games until deadlines are pushed back, budgets get exceeded, and projects grow out of control – which would surely disappoint any client. Remember that a dissatisfied client is unlikely to pay for your services again.
Keeping scope creep at bay is part of a well-managed project. It avoids altogether the problem of dealing with steadily increasing work. Here are some good project scope management techniques to slow down the creep:
1. Collaborate Early On
One good way of avoiding additional tasks while the project is underway is to collaborate with the client from the start. Take a dynamic approach in leading the conversation and be sure to find out their ideas and expectations. After discussing the objectives of the project, draft a project scope management plan with a baseline checklist that details all the simplest expectations and deliverables for the whole endeavor. Define measurements of success and failure, as well as set up review and approval processes for the deliverables in the baseline.
Early collaboration gives you a better understanding of the client, what they want from the project and why they need it. The management plan also serves as a reference point if the client wants to push for some changes. Steering the conversation back to the original project plan gives you room to decline or at least renegotiate the supposed additional tasks or modifications to the project.
2. Observe Limitations
The management plan provides a clear definition of what work needs to be done. Project managers have to be firm about this definition because it prevents clients from suggesting new tasks or making changes to the project. The plan also specifies how much budget is allocated to a certain part of a project. This means additional tasks will do more harm than good and stretch the budget. Staying within the limits determined in the project scope checklist prevents your team from going over the client’s budget because of the added workload.
Here are three things you need to keep in mind:
○ Schedule – How long will it take to complete the project? What are possible scenarios or factors that may cause setbacks?
○ Resources – Do you have the capabilities or resources to push through with the project? Is there a need to invest in new technology?
3. Factor in the Budget
Speaking of budget, another way to deal with project scope creep is to negotiate a slightly higher budget. Take into consideration the possibility of the client requesting new deliverables or rejecting certain outputs. For instance, if the common practice is to add 20% of the budget for contingency purposes, increase that figure to 30% or more.
Anticipate any additional overhead the project might incur. This saves time spent negotiating project changes while also providing financial wiggle room for the team’s respective tasks. Operating at a higher margin is miles better than scrimping on quality just to make the client’s budget work. Furthermore, if the additional funds are not used, your project should finish under budget which your client will love.
Budgeting will be easier if you have the right tools. One of the tools I recommend is PlanGuru. This software helps you consolidate all your business budget and forecasts into one spreadsheet. Here’s a quick video on the features of this tool:
4. Define Terms for Change
As much as firmness is essential for a project manager, so is knowing what and when to concede. At times, you may have to give in to the requests of your client – and that is fine, as long as the scope creep is to an acceptable degree. What matters is that there is a clear-cut procedure for when the project scope has to go through some changes.
Consult the initial plan and checklist regarding every change and identify if it is truly necessary to the objectives. Add a provision in the plan for securing extra budget for additional tasks as well.
5. Practice Transparency
Lastly, observe transparency throughout the project. It is best to keep the client as informed about the project as possible. Being transparent is enough to convince clients that you do know what you are doing and that they have no need to change or add anything to the project scope baseline.
Send regular reports that detail the project’s progress at regular intervals. Whenever the client has a question, respond as clearly and as quickly as possible. Keep them on top of the project they are paying for and build their trust through honesty. There is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to project management.
There is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to project management.
Scope creep is inevitable in project management, but preventing it from overrunning the project is possible. It is a matter of controlling the addition of new tasks and keeping the focus on the core objectives of the endeavor. With these five useful techniques, any project manager can ensure a smoother workflow, secure a timely project completion, and ultimately, guarantee client satisfaction.