Aug 092011

Addition of one more requirement or one more feature overall “Scope Creep” is one of the biggest causes of IT Project failure. If scope is well managed then it can be an up-selling, resulting in more revenue for vendor and joy for customer. On the other hand, if unmanaged it becomes a statistic and topic for this post.

How is scope creep introduced?

  1. Scope is not properly defined.
  2. Not giving sufficient time for requirement definition. More complex the business requirement, more thorough analysis and time for that analysis is required. In fact, in such situations Agile Project Management can be most suitable.
  3. Not involving all the required stakeholders at appropriate time. The stakeholders can be a customer or development function.
  4. Change in business or technical landscape.
  5. Perfectionist developer (Gold plating) or customer associate
  6. More leeway to customer and thus customer expects that a little more than what is committed / paid for is acceptable.

How can you reduce/control scope creep?

  1. Scope must be very well defined and documented. Every project stakeholder must be aware of the scope. Project development team should be the champion of project scope.
  2. Instill “investigate and then confirm” in project team. No one should say yes to any minor requirement unless that is documented in scope.
  3. Start investigation at the hint of it.
  4. If an item is out of scope then state to customer that that is out of scope.
  5. Associate a price tag to every new requirement.
  6. All changes must go through change control mechanism – change control board, change manager, change management form.
  7. Conduct sufficient requirement analysis and communicate with customer about the progress of the solution. A complex project requires more analysis. Breaking the solution into short stints as in Agile may be helpful.
  8. Involve all stakeholders until the requirements transform into business solution (A-Z). There must be a very good reason to not include a stakeholder.
  9. Present prototypes and mock ups to facilitate customer in defining requirements. Keeping customer abreast of the development and communicating with customer when there is any doubt can be helpful. However, changes in requirement should still be seen with a grain of salt.
  10. Define project risks and mitigation plans thoroughly especially that affect scope, cost or quality.
  11. Keep buffer in project plan to investigate and manage scope creeps.

Do you face scope creep in your projects? Do you use any other technique to manage scope creeps?


  2 Responses to “Scope Creep – Causes and Solution”

  1. Hi himanshu,
    All these points of handling scope creep are good in books but in reality it’s not easy to follow
    Customer will come with new req in the middle of development and testing and they will present a business which forces to include in the release. Only thing can be done is document the risk associated with it

  2. Hi Deepak,
    I agree that these points are not easy to follow and that’s why scope creep is a reality.

    For customers adding new requirement in the middle of development and testing, there can be multiple reasons:
    1. Business requirement was not very clear or not clearly documented until development was started (which can again be for various reasons).
    2. Change in business landscape, business model, competetitor, market conditions etc.

    Point 2 is the case when only option is to mitigate the risk (as you have mentioned) and customer is shareholder in that risk. Any such change must be thoroughly evaluated, and price tag and risk tag must be shown very clearly to customer.
    Point 1 can be controlled by prototypes, sending very clear message to customer to re-evaluate the requirement before such risk strikes, or employ shorter projects using, may be, scrum.

    “How can you reduce/control scope creep?” may not prevent scope creep altogether but the methodology can plug many scope creeps.

    Does these solutions not work in your specific projects? Can you share more details about your specific projects?

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