Scope Creep

Scope Creep

Scope creep presents a major headache for project managers. It is defined as the “tendency for a project to extend beyond its initial boundaries” (Kerzner, 2013). Most of the problems arising in scope creep stem from customers’ changing expectations from previously agreed deliverables in the functionality and features of a certain project in a given time. The overall effect of scope creep can range from a project overrunning its budget, failing to complete on time or being terminated midstream.

There are many solutions that have been suggested to avert the crises of scope creep. Most of the solutions have been tailored for specific projects. For IT systems, there are additional factors that are considered in this concept. There are some strains to scope creep that do not manifest themselves in the usual external type symptoms. They occur during software development or product development projects. They are referred to as creeping elegance. These are largely due to the obsession of software developers and project engineers to produce the best systems and products with the highest level of performance capabilities. They frown upon those that are driven by meeting minimum requirements and refer to them as underachievers. Preventing scope creep, however, is about meeting minimum requirements unless the best has been factored in the original formulation of the project.

In light of the above facts, the subsequent part of this paper will analyze whether there is a full proof way of avoiding scope creep. Many researchers argue that the best way to avoid scope creep is to have a comprehensive planning process. This means that all stakeholders must be exhaustively consulted in order to ensure that their thoughts, suggestions and expectations are factored into the formulation of the final system or product (Shukla, 2009). The process of consultation starts by identifying who the stakeholders are and ensuring that the project manager understands their needs. The project manager must also ensure that he/she has studied all forms of documentation and reports pertinent to the project to make sure that they are all-inclusive and embody the totality of the project. Additionally, there must be an understanding of the processes, procedures and philosophy that will go into the particular project. There must also be an assessment of all exception conditions to make sure that they are adequately identified and factored into the planning process. Of most importance is to ensure that there is an open list of unresolved matters so that they are continuously being addressed to have amicable solutions for the smooth running of the project.

As part of planning, the project must be clearly defined. There are usually a couple of tasks that are interrelated and that need to go into the project for its overall completion. A well defined project ensures that all parties are working in harmony and understand what the other is doing at any particular time. Here, there must be an assumption list of the customer givens and true assumptions. These assist in budgeting for both time and costs. If for example one is working on the Statement of Work (SOW) and realizes that there must be an assumption about the interface of a software, then that assumption has to be tracked through all levels to ensure that it is adequately addressed down the road. A SOW is the overall guide to the project and must be adhered to.

All projects must have a risk assessment done in order to manage anticipated risks. It is prudent that all trap-doors in a project are uncovered so as to plan effectively. Here, project managers rely on the experience of their team members. There must be a risk identification list that helps track risks at all times in the course of implementation. It is important for project managers to ensure that any risks are described in detail so that a third party dealing with a particular facet of the problem can identify it.

During the course of planning, a resource and communication plan must be developed. This plan helps to track all resources at various stages of project implementation to avoid wastage. Resources include people and other raw materials pertinent to the successful completion of a project, guided by a budget and timetable. Different people must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities to prevent misunderstandings or work overlaps during implementation. A good communication plan must be useful to the author and meaningful to the audience. Communication between the project team and the customer must be flawless to ensure that there is a rapport that assists in minimizing loopholes for scope creep to manifest.

Other matters that must be considered include progress reporting which is informed by the project status. In case there are changes that are to be made, they must go through the stages of notification, request, analysis, and eventually approval (Vandermitt, 2011). This should be checked against other open issues.

Counterarguments against the avoidance of scope creep are highlighted by researchers who state that software development is an ongoing process that must have additions as the project is being implemented. In the problem of creeping elegance, software developers and project engineers might feel that there is need for additional features that were not initially envisaged but deemed necessary in the course of development. Customers might also want additional features, informed by evolving needs of their end users. Researchers in this school of thought argue that scope creep cannot be avoided but rather can be managed. They suggest that project managers should form committees that should involve all stakeholders to agree on the additions in reference to the project status and scope of the project (Baker & Greer, 2011). There must be additional assessments to determine the estimated bloat in budget and time and also the effect it will have on the attractiveness of the final product or system.

While this school of thought may have some merit in its assertions, one must consider that project implementation and in particular software and systems development is not an end in itself. Whereas the additions resulting in scope creep can be minimized in terms of additional planning and strict adherence to any compromises, my opinion is that additions and improvements can always be addressed in a subsequent platform. Most software has newer versions after fixed periods of time. For example Microsoft develops an operating system after a certain fixed period of time, which is usually an improvement of past operating systems. If the project managers who developed windows 97 would have waited to add the features presently in windows 8, then probably Microsoft would have gone under due to runaway scope creep. Therefore, it is possible to arrest scope creep right from the planning phase and then allow for relevant additions in newer versions in subsequent phases.



Baker, A., & Greer, M. (2011). Best practices for minimizing project scope creep focus. Retrieved on 20th Nov, 2013 from <>

Kerzner, H., (2013). Project Management – A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling (11th edition). New York: John Wiley and Sons

Shukla, R.D., (2009). Information system plan. Slideshare. Retrieved on 20th Nov, 2013 from <>

Vandermitt, C. (2011). Managing scope creep in project management. The Project Management Hut. Retrieved on 20th Nov, 2013 from <>





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