Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stop Scope Creep from running away with your Project

Duncan Haughey for Projectsmart, discusses causes and solutions to prevent scope creep from ruining your project.

Scope creep is one of the most common reasons projects run over budget and deliver late. Often done with the best intentions, changes to scope during a project are a negative event best avoided.

Most project managers have experienced a case where the customer asks for something outside the scope agreed and expects it included at no extra cost. In fact, they're probably acting as if it's always been in scope.

Defining the boundaries of a project is difficult, but without a clear definition you're heading for problems.

To summarise, ensure you set expectations correctly at the beginning of a project, working closely with the users to define clearly what is in and out of scope. Record it in the project initiation document. However, don't assume the customer will read and understand this document. Spend time with the customer to walk them through it and ensure they understand and agree the scope. Don't continue without a firm agreement.

Often it's not possible to avoid increasing scope during a project, especially if there is a sound business reason to do so. However, it must be managed properly. Design a change control process to ensure all changes are properly documented, considered, approved and resourced. Note: Where budget and time are increased with scope, the change is not usually considered scope creep.

Alternatively, you may wish to prevent changes being added piecemeal during the project and may decide to document them for a later phase. This allows the agreed phase to be delivered on time and budget, and the changes managed and resourced separately.

If you consider that only 32% ¹ of all projects fully succeed; then you're better-off spending your time delivering the requirements agreed at the beginning of the project, and avoiding gold plating.

Scope creep causes many project failures; by taking a few simple measures you can make sure it doesn't affect your projects.

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