Managing Scope Creep

Changing Customer Requirements : How to manage Scope Creep

Written by Vinai Prakash

“No! This is not what we wanted. What we meant was…”

“Last night I had an idea. What about if we change this option to …”

“Our management has set a new direction. What we want to do now is to incorporate…”

Do any of these statements seem familiar to you? They are all request from the customer to make changes to the project scope. “Scope Creep” in short.

Most projects are plagued by scope creep. The challenge small business owners or their project manager’s face is to balance changing requirements and keeping customers happy while maintaining the project schedule & costs under control.

If you are not experienced in handling such issues upfront, you will end up in never ending projects, spiraling costs and flak from management.

Scope creep can cost up to four times as much as initial costs. The costs of scope creep can include:

  • deferred benefits and lowered return on investment (ROI)
  • Increased maintenance costs
  • Additional expected loss, such as if the project is cancelled

One of the most essential skills of an Effective Project Manager is to manage change. Every day the market changes, the users change, their requirements change, their management changes, and their whims and fancies change.

It is important to know that all projects are dynamic, and that some change is inevitable, even desirable. However, unnecessary changes can take you in the wrong direction double fast.

Whether you deal with internal projects or customer facing projects, managing change, containing scope and keeping the purse tight are skills that you can learn, and master.

Once you learn these skills & techniques, you will have less stress, more peace of mind, and the ability to deliver on time, on budget and within scope.

Here are some proven techniques for managing Scope Creep in your projects.

The best way to minimize scope creep is to define the requirements up front as thoroughly as possible. Utilize different techniques such as prototyping and joint application development (JAD) sessions, to thoroughly explore and define the business and technical requirements.

  • Involve the customers in the earliest stages of the project.
  • Divide the projects into phases, with each phase resulting in a release. Controlled releases allow the users to see and visualize some of what they are going to get. Misconceptions can be removed earlier and reduce the cost of change.
  • Prioritize requirements into must-haves & nice-to-haves. Define the risk for each must-have requirement – that is the impact it will have if that requirement is not met. Utilize this information if trade offs must be made later on.
  • Hold prototyping or JAD (joint application development) sessions between the business unit and IT, to involve the user in a greater level of detail at an early stage.

Best of all, the basics of Project management need to be followed consistently. I can’t stress enough on the necessity of having a proper Project Plan, well documented, and super communicated up and down the levels.

Use of tools like Microsoft Project is very helpful in the project life cycle. Today, most project managers are not well versed with using this powerful tool effectively. They manage projects on a daily basis, responding to the crisis of the day, and in turn losing focus on the Big Picture. In the long run, the project derails and suffers.

To be effective and efficient, you need to have a good handle on your project, your people and your users. Start today to bring back your projects on schedule by minimizing scope creep.

About the Author:
The author, Vinai Prakash is an experienced Project Manager, having worked in large MNCs for over 21 years. His sessions are very lively, and filled with concepts, ideas, tips, techniques, stories and anecdotes to guide you in your pursuit of becoming a Better Project Manager.

How to Be a Better Manager (using Microsoft Project 2003)
Vinai is conducting a 3 Day workshop on “How to be a Better Project Manager (using Microsoft Project 2003)” in June. It covers the Fundamentals of Project Management, with a lot of hands on sessions in using Microsoft Project to manage projects. The workshop is full of case studies and real life examples.

View the course outline or to Register.

Many such time saving tips, tricks, negotiating techniques are covered and tried in group settings in our Practical Project Management workshop with MS Project. Get the Best Articles on PMP every week.

Article writtten by Master Trainer Vinai Prakash. All Rights Reserverd.

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