Scope Creep Management



Jenny Brunnert

ISYS 6840 - G01

Vicki Sauter

November 8, 2012



What is Scope Creep?

All projects leaders would agree a project’s success depends on the management of the scope, although not only the scope, but the changes the scope undergo throughout the duration of the project.  Although, many project members believe these changes are horrifyingly frightening once stumbled upon and cannot be easily maintained or controlled.  These alterations to the scope one speaks of during a project are known as the term scope creep. Breaking the term into two separate segments the term gets its meaning. The project scope, meaning the defined limitations, description, and deliverables all necessary for completion before the project’s closure time; whereas, to be crept upon is the occurrence or development of a steady movement.  Joining the words and meanings together one will find scope creep is easy enough said the uncontrollable changes that occur to the scope of the project.
Each project, like each existing creature on earth, has its own life cycle. A systems project goes through a five step methodology known as Systems Development Life Cycle. Initiating a systems project the Systems DevelopmentLife Cycle assists and guides members through the process of the project by identifying the scope. With steps, such as, implementation, testing, evaluation, analysis, and design a scope can be developed, controlled, and managed. In further details the scope of a project can be defined as the work planned out by project members, developers, programmers, and the client to be completed and delivered throughout the duration of a project. The scope’s main focus is to control and maintain the project: keeping the project on time constraints and on budget. By recognizing the scope this assist in defining the projects limits to team members and managers to help better the project’s success.
Scope planning is key to the management of the project. Planning the scope consists of the deliverables and potential outcome of the project as promised to the client. Though, not only does the scope include planning the outcomes and closure time but also the recourses necessary: sponsors, customers, funding, and public. Without the necessary information, poor planning of the scope can arouse causing the project to miss deadlines and exceed budgets. This type of neglectful management is referred to as scope creep.  Moreover, scope creep can as well be identified as the additions throughout the duration of projects. Most often than not, many believe the occurrences of these changes lead to a negative impact rather than a positive one.

A set of deliverables and tasks along with an anticipated ending time is planned for each systems project that is implemented. The accomplishment of the project is said once all tasks are complete, though; a successful project is achieved if all responsibilities are completed before the closure date and under or right on budget. The relationship of scope towards the project is closely united; seeing as how the systems project’s scope is based on the deliverables and their timeline of completion; any little alteration in the direction of the scope could affect the overcome of the project as well as the success.

In addition, adding features to the life cycle of the project creates extra tasks for team members to carry out in the project’s initial time limit. Granted, the time limit of the scope is set with a reserve in mind in the occurrence that a change may come about. Though, the more changes made the smaller this reserve gets; resulting in the project possibly of going over on the closure time as well as producing a failed project. Scope creep is established as these add-ons are applied. In conjunction with these changes come further consequences: expenses, responsibilities, and time required to complete project. As days, weeks, or even years are continuously added to a project a questions to ask the team might be; now as the project scope has increase is it worth the cost to continue on the project? The decision to continue with the project in this case would be extremely significant due to the fact that team members may be currently or soon to be working on other projects. No doubt, further effort from each member will be required in order to maintain a successful project. In the instance of a systems project over on time, and thinking of the technology changes rapidly occurring in the world, by the time the project is complete would the technology used in the outcome of the project be useful to the client once complete?  If one knew the project was to be complete in less than a month overdue it may be successful to the client, just varying on the time overdue and the client needs. Each situation should be analyze from each person perspective when scope creep occurs, because as one can see from this example depending on the time the project is overdue the project may or may not be useful to the client once complete.

Why Scope Creep Occurs...

In various systems projects, may it be the development of a university’s admission and registration system or simply the system of how we maintain our daily schedule through technology today, a scope is always set in place. Meaning people carrying out these tasks knowing what they wish to achieve, the resources they wish to use, how much they wish to spend, and a time frame they wish to complete the project or task in. When establishing these boundaries members have hopes that these limits will not be crossed and the project will be a success. Though, as several people can probably quote by now without failures we wouldn’t have learned anything, each failure teaches us how something can’t be done. Scope creep can sometimes be to blame for these failures. But why does it occur? Scope Creep can occur for many reasons, but below are the six most common reasons listed and a more description explanation of each.

  1. Poor Initial requirements: The original requirements or goals were not clearly specified, and this leads to misconceptions which can disrupt the project. This lack of organization can make or break a project.
  2. Unwillingness to say no to a client: A client may be the one the project is created for and they are in charge of the money, but it is imperative that the Project Manager(s) knows their limits. In many cases Project Managers want to satisfy the customer or be the handy person, but this causes them to take on more than they can handle.
  3. No formal review and approval process for changes: Often changes are not monitored in an effective way and this allows any change to be implemented, whether it is beneficial or not. The establishment of a council to debate these changes can help eliminate unnecessary waste on any change that is suggested. Also, the development of specific criteria can help by setting up the minimum requirements a change has to meet before being considered.
  4. Allowing people who don’t do the work to accept the changes: The person who is accepting the changes need to be someone who understands the project and has contributed to its work. This person doesn’t have to have the final say on a change, but they need to take part in the filtering process to weed out unnecessary suggestions.
  5. Ego: The pride of a Project Manager can also make or break a project. This requires the Project Manager to know his/her limits, be able to ask for assistance, and place the project ahead of his/her personal ego.
  6. Thinking that one little change won’t matter: A council to monitor changes can eliminate the implementation of an unnecessary change which can lead to a reaction of changes, either to fix that previous change or make another change in conjunction with the previous one.

Remember, once Scope Creep begins, it is hard to stop or reverse it!

How to Manage Scope Creep...

A manager of a bank wouldn’t allow the bank's security system to be unattended or unmanaged for a day.  A diligent student wouldn't tolerate their grade to be recorded incorrectly.  Nor would a rightful citizen fall behind on paying taxes.  Each of these scenarios in some way or manor plays a part of a system. Just as people manage their work, student, and financial elements throughout their life, it's realized that a system's project as well requires management throughout the project life cycle. Proper management is crucial to a projects life without it a project’s life could terminate early. As Michael Ingandia states in his articles "12 Steps to Protect Your Firm's Profits Against the Menace of Scope Creep" better management can be done at the initiation of the project by defining each task more specifically. Managing the changes as they arouse can also assist in maintaining the project along the way. Shown in the table, Ingandia states twelve steps to help in better managing a project.

1. The project needs to be broken down into more manageable tasks and processes, instead of being dealt with as a whole project.

2. A definition of each part of the project is required in order to specify the parameters of each piece of the overall project.

3. Each phase of the overall project should now be broken down into even more manageable parts within that particular phase.

4. Each particular task or part of a phase, should be assigned to a person who will be responsible for that task or piece of the project.

5. A budget needs to be outlined in both the dollars and hours it will require to complete a task.

6. It is imperative that those overseeing the project have the ability to activate/inactivate phases of the project as needed so unnecessary components are not taking from the budget.

7. To maintain control of the budget and the overall project, it is necessary to keep a percentage of completion on the task level so as to monitor the project at its most basic level.

8. Recording percentage of completion at the task level allows for easy calculation of the revenue.

9. If an extra request arises, develop a new task to manage this request.

10. By developing a task to manage any extra requests, project managers can better track the budget and activity of these extras.

11. Discovering an extra in the initial phases of the project shows a client the project managers are capable individuals.

12. Even when a project is closed it is imperative to critically analyze the budget to ensure that a task’s budget was adequate for that specific task.

Techniques for Management...

After reviewing past projects through my research it’s noticed each team has their techniques for managing a project, although, all techniques are performed in a similar way. The management process as mentioned numerous times is essential to each project’s survival. Three main techniques well-acknowledged to all teams that must be performed to achieve a successful project consist of: defining the scope, verify the scope, and control the scope. These three techniques are described in further described in more detail.  

  1. Define the Scope: There are two times throughout a project when the scope is defined.
    1. At the beginning – A scope of the entire project is defined when the project is first began. This will outline such aspects as the projected benefits and the system abilities of the project.

      Throughout the project – Based on the feedback from users, project members will adapt the system requirements of the project, which will later become the system specifications. This is an essential step since problems typically arise due to unclear descriptions of the system requirements.

  2. Verify the Scope:
  3. At this stage in the process it is important that all members involved , whether they be the developers or clients, agrees with the definition of the scope, as well as the specific aspects to be included.

  4. Control the Scope

    The step, along with the initial definition of the scope, is a key aspect in the Scope Management.

    This technique ensures that any changes are reviewed prior to being implemented into the project. By reviewing the changes, members are ensuring that only the needed changes are made and everyone agrees on the changes to be made.

What Effects can Occur from Scope Creep...

A proper scope is defined at the beginning and throughout the project in the expectation that changes won’t be brought about. Though, during most projects no matter the type or size changes occur regardless or the amount of planning. Certainly, the changes that appear are bringing a positive impression to the project if they’re being altered, though, with these changes come their effects. Consequently, adding addition features to a project after the scope is set can place several negative effects on the project: time constraints, budget increase, ending result could fall short of expectations, and additional stress placed on team members.

1. Project falls behind schedule.
- Because of the implementation of new changes, the project’s schedule will need to be altered, meaning the project will take more time to be completed.
2. Project budget will increase.
- Because of the implementation of changes, the project will be running for a longer time which will increase the budget. Also, the changes themselves will increase the cost of the project.
3. The end result will fall short of initial expectations.
- Despite the changes being made, pressure will be placed on the Project Manager to stay as close to the original budget as possible.  Therefore, other parts of the project may suffer since extra money has been put toward the changes, but an increase in funds isn’t matching the new costs.
4. The Project Manager will be under a great amount of stress.
- Scope Creep aids to more work and stress for a Project Manager.
5. Integrity and ability of Project Manager is questioned.

How to Prevent Scope Creep...

Though, many believe scope creep is horrifying and unmanageable, to some extent my belief is that scope creep can be prevented with a valuable effort and proper planning. Teams can prevent scope creep from occurring by in a sense over planning and setting a reserve in the scope. Therefore, when changes take place there is a set amount of time, resources, and budget set aside for these changes to utilize. Research has proven that scope creep most often than not is shown due to:

  1. Lack of Requirement Analysis: Clients fail to known exactly what they want until they see the product
  2. Failure to involve Users Early enough: One member taking control, believing they known what the client and users desire are resulting in mistakes.
  3. Underestimating the difficulty of Project: Projects new to the industry therefore members may not know what to expect since they have never completed this type of project in the past
  4. Poor Change Control: A manageable scope creep process should be designed since each project should account for changes towards the scope
  5. Gold Plating: term known as exceeding the scope, placing more value than is necessary to the project

Scope creep can have the horrify thought of knowing most projects are bound with changes generally resulting in an extended time length, more resources, and expenses. Nevertheless, by realizing the reasons for these alterations that most often results in scope creep one may be able to prevent the occurrence of these horrifying actions by eliminating them in the project.
In my opinion, scope creep can be more easily managed with proper effort than it can be prevented. With proper management scope may be able to be prevented to some extent, though, I believe just as life has its changes as do projects.

Is Scope Creep always bad...

When one hears the phase scope creep the perception receives immediately is negative. Though, is scope creep or changes to a project always bad? Most often scope creep is presented in a project in a negative way. However, there are two sides to everything. Therefore, I want to present a positive example of Scope Creep. Mike Hrickiewicz of Health Facilities Management wrote an article about his company asking for help from Dana Dubbs, a consultant for HFM. At this time, HFM’s focus was on the construction of health facilities using resources which would help reduce noise in such settings. Ms. Dubbs was asked to produce a report detailing how resources could be used to eradicate healthcare facilities of noise. She developed the typical list of specific interior furnishings, but she also included cultural changes to be made. These cultural changes include changes in the behavior of the hospital employees through training on how to converse quietly or to take alternate routes to reduce traffic, and the replacement of noisy equipment. When Mr. Hrickiewicz applied to Ms. Dubbs for her assistance, he wasn’t planning on expanding the focus of his project. However, based on the suggestions, he realized these suggestions were not only valuable, but necessary for the completion and effectiveness of the finished product. This example has shown that not all instances of Scope Creep have to be negative. Some have the potential to improve the project.


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" Arm yourself with good requirments, strength, determination, good processes, and planning, and you can defend against and even slay the scope creep monster that's threatening your project."

Wayne Turk