Project Management: How to Prevent Scope Creep

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For some, project scope may be something we set and forget. This may not be an issue if we still get to our end goal. However, you may not notice how much extra (and unpaid) time and money you’re putting into projects if you’re not carefully monitoring your scope.

Scope creep happens when your scope is a lot higher than you originally projected at the start of the project. Culprits range from your success-obsessed team to your high-strung client. It’s easy to stay quiet and deal with it, however, it’ll cost everyone in the long run. You may end up with an unhappy client, overworked team and an unfinished project.

Instead of getting bogged down by excessive work, you should find ways to proactively prevent scope creep from ruining your project and your team’s hard work.

The best place to start is when you’re drawing up a contract. Here, you can get goals and deliverables in writing and have a legal source to refer back if the client starts asking for too many changes. This is also a great place to educate the client on your process and how you plan to reach the goals you both agree on.

Keeping the client informed cuts down on the ambiguity and mitigates future confusion or misunderstanding. Establishing your review, communication and check-in process can also temper expectations and hopefully cut down on out-of-the-blue feedback.

The beginning is also a solid place to touch base with your team (if you’re working with others) to ensure that timelines and deliverables are reasonable for their workload. If you’re working by yourself, you should also check in and ask yourself if you think your client’s terms are reasonable or if you should push back.

Unfortunately, no amount of planning can completely get rid of scope creep. This isn’t anything to be afraid of, though! The important thing to do while you’re working on a project is to be proactive and have a process in place to handle changes. Some changes and feedback are necessary to ensure the project is on the right track. Anticipating and acting on potential issues can minimize things from getting out of hand.

However, some clients just have too much feedback or have way too many changes. If you’ve set expectations from the start but still have a hands-on client, you’ll need to evaluate if they have legitimate concerns or if you need to re-educate the client on things regarding the project.

Some other things to look out for when combatting scope creep include: multiple people giving feedback, team members working extra hours to finish their deliverables and project costs shooting up too early in the project.

Check out this infographic below on preventing scope creep from JW Surety Bonds to learn more about the red flags and tips to manage and prevent it from derailing your business.

Project Management: How to Prevent Scope Creep
Infographic by JW Surety Bonds

In addition to managing expectations and anticipating issues, there are other ways to handle clients better so that everyone gets what they need. Standing by your work, learning to say no and staying honest with yourself can go a long way in keeping your stress levels low while meeting your client’s goals.

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