Scope creep can easily sneak up on you if you don't pay close attention to your project. It often begins with minor changes or feedback from your client, and then suddenly it turns into several days or weeks of extra work. Mind you, the original scope of the project did not include that additional work. Especially if you work with fixed price projects, and you did not agree to bill your client for those extra hours, it's quite frankly going to affect your bottom line; not to mention the profitability of the project. How frustrating! To avoid those long drawn out projects, you need an adequately defined Statement of Work (SOW).
The SOW should function as a detailed building plan and roadmap of what has to get done. It should be as specific as possible. A SOW should include the preparations necessary for every role working on each task within the project. This way you avoid the potential risk of the client wanting one thing, you understanding a second, and the assigned person building something else. Mainly, if you don’t have an agreed SOW with a clear description - each link (client, designer, developer, etc.) might understand the project differently, and thus ending up with a something completely different.
We've probably all seen this scenario before. This picture perfectly exemplifies what causes scope creep and how projects quickly spin out of control. The building plan, SOW, was not correctly described by the client to the project manager at the very beginning. Further through the production timeline, it is clear how the project was not going to be the ideal result. In the end, the product was not anywhere close to what the client envisioned and needed in the first place. If you can't refer back to your mutually signed SOW, then those corrections could quickly turn out to be much more comprehensive. In result, it could make the project run overtime, stretch your resources, and push other projects and clients further from their completion dates.
We've collected a few tips on how you can avoid potential scope creep. Take a look, and try to keep them in mind for your next project.
1. Clearly defined Statement of Work (SOW)
Make sure you understand the idea and expectations of your client. Together with your client, brainstorm the idea, define the requirements, and carefully create the SOW. Build a proposal around the SOW, and mutually sign both pieces, i.e., SOW and Proposal.
Now, with a mutually agreed SOW and Proposal, you're ready to move forward with the planning phase of the project. With the outcome in mind, you both know what's within the scope, what's out of reach, and specifically what needs to be built or created. Use the SOW both internally with your teams, and externally with your client to keep everybody on the same page. You can always refer back to the initial SOW whenever your client is suggesting new features or some changes. For a profitable project, you need to agree and bill your client for any extra work put forth.
2. Using a Project Management solution
Having the right project management solution in place can help you avoid scope creep. All tasks should be in one place, complete with all the information you need, i.e., descriptions, subtasks, assigned people, design files, comments, and so forth.
A proper project management solution should be able to store everything related to the project and each task in one place. Giving your team a place to get the one-truth, and thus a place to refer back to if any questions arise. A project management solution helps your team with being able to communicate in the right context if the task is going through several hands along the way.
Forecast is a complete solution. From setting up your SOW to moving your tasks from to-do to done, and finally to budgeting and viewing insights on the progress of your project. Everything you need is linked together. You can even invite your client on-board to participate, but this is, of course, an optional feature.
3. Simple Adjustments or New Tasks
This one is critical for avoiding scope creep. Whenever you receive feedback on your project deliverables, make sure to distinguish the input from what is a simple adjustment to your work from an entirely new task. Adjustments can be alright, of course, but new tasks are most often out of the initially defined scope.
The difference is in what the client is asking to have changed. An adjustment is a simple change to adapt the experience slightly, i.e., the design of a button in a mobile app. A new task is if the nature of this button is asked to be changed, i.e., creating an entirely new flow or building a new feature around it.
4. Approval of New Tasks
Suggestions and feature requests can be alright, but significant changes need to result in an extended agreement. Of course, this is in the case that the feature or change is clearly out of the scope and not just a simple adjustment of the current project. If it is indeed a new task, say something like, "We can definitely do that, but this is out of the initially agreed scope of the project. Would you like me to do an estimation of the time and costs for you?". In this way, you are open to the adjustment but are also making sure that your project remains profitable.
Forecast has a simple flow for this approval process built-in. You can easily add new tasks to your SOW during the project. The tasks will stay as suggestions until a further approval process has taken place. You can add detailed information to the job, by entering a low and high estimate. You immediately get a more accurate time frame and price to propose to your client. If agreed, you can move the new task(s) into a new or current milestone, and approve the task for production.
Now, completely avoiding scope creep can be tricky, but following the steps above can greatly improve your chances of detecting potential loopholes early. No matter, whether they arise from an unclear SOW or your client trying to, maybe unintentionally, adding extra work to your agreed scope - avoiding scope creep is paramount.