The goal with any new project is to get to market on time and within budget. One thing that can have a major impact on both of those objectives is scope creep.
PMBOK, Project Management Body of Knowledge, defines scope creep as the “Uncontrollable expansion of the product or project scope without adjustments to the time, cost, and resources.” Essentially, scope creep is when a project loses direction through an excessive volume of changes. Managing and avoiding scope creep – and the increased costs and timeline delays – can be challenging. Here are some ideas on how to handle it, and ultimately, how to avoid it.
Many different people are involved in determining the direction, and ultimately, the outcome of a project. Make sure that all of the stakeholders are involved from the very start. This will help insure that all opinions are vetted early on in the project and that everyone is on the same page. A Project Manager is a valuable addition to that core group as he or she serves to oversee and manage the flow of ideas, the direction of discussion and keep the team focused.
Making a list of “must haves” and “nice haves” will help clearly define and prioritize everything you need and want for the project. Assessing the cost value for these items before the project begins ensures staying on target cost. In addition, agreeing on the Project Specifications and charting a course of action will guarantee a successful finish to the end.
Planning for Changes
Defining a process for making changes will aid in managing the scope and being prepared for the inevitable changes to come. Planning exactly the way the team will handle and alter changes to the project is what will define a good Change Management Plan. The timing, cost, quality, and risks are necessary factors to recognize in order to have complete control; having them at the forefront of all decision making. Regulatory scheduled calls with the entire project team and agreeing upon any changes before moving forward, is key.
An Action Tracker is another highly beneficial document to help manage the project because it is the liaison between project teams and clients. The Action Tracker ensures the initial scope is agreed upon, changes are agreed upon and overall development is following the project baseline. Assignment of action items and responsibilities is another major role of the Action Tracker. This will guarantee constant collaboration in order to avoid miscommunication and other mishaps that could affect the scope and project as a whole.
Scope creep can cause delays in your product launch and wreak havoc on your budget. Putting a solid project plan in place will help keep your team on target. When preparing to start a new product development project, remember these keys to avoid scope creep:
- Form a strong, multi-disciplinary team
- Create a Needs Analysis
- Identify Project Specifications
- Establish a good Change Management Plan
- Action Tracker
Scope creep is a dangerous threat to the success of a project, but recognizing the forms and measures you can take to avoid it, is what will prevent the project from falling into this trap.