Stop clients taking advantage of you with scope creep!
One of the things that newbies and seasoned designers and developers can let sneak into their work is something called “Scope Creep”.
Scope creep (sometimes known as “requirement creep” or even “feature creep”) refers to how a project’s requirements tend to increase over a project lifecycle, e.g. what once started out as a single deliverable becomes five. Or a product that began with three essential features now must have ten. Or midway through a project, the needs of customers change, prompting a reassessment of the project requirements.
When I was starting out as an Instructional Designer, I would have agreed to anything to get the work and start making a name for myself. This did little to help me, quite the opposite it hindered my career. But I learn very quickly and started researching how to stop being a pushover and more so how would the client actually react if I asked for payment and extra time to complete the project. I found out very fast that clients will back off and stick with their original scope of works when they had little or no intention of paying for the extra features they were looking for some cheap or FREE!
What is Wrong with Scope Creep?
By working on features of a product that are unapproved a project team gives too much time to the unauthorized changes. The work to incorporate these changes usually must be done within the original time and budget estimates, leaving less time for what parts of the project that have approval within the scope. That could result in the approved features not getting completed, and your end-product is not what was agreed. It can also mean that time and cost that were not taken in to account in the final product will lead to overruns to the project.
How Does Scope Creep Occur?
There are many ways scope creep can occur on projects. Executives at the client level frequently don’t want to be involved in every decision. So, the client’s project teams make them. Some change requests are or appear to be small, so again, project teams act on them instead of following a formal change of scope management process. An inflexible or cumbersome change control process may also contribute to unauthorized scope additions.
For various reasons, the project team may want to exceed expectations and deliver “more value” by adding unrequested functionality. IT managers often fail to negotiate more time and budget when clients requests for additional functionality are made, and so the scope creeps sets in.
Reasons for scope creep include:
- Lack of clarity and depth to the original specification document.
- Allowing direct [unmanaged] contact between client and team participants.
- Customers trying to get extra work “on the cheap or free.”
- Beginning the design and development of something before thorough requirements and needs analysis and cost/benefit analysis has been done.
- Scope creep “where you do it to yourself” because of lack of foresight and planning. This can happen when developers or designers are afraid to question what the correct process is and how the should proceed.
- Poorly defined initial requirements.
- “Management promises the sun and the moon and stars, and breaks the backs of the developers to give them just that in impossibly tight time frames.” Normally because management doesn’t want to negotiate with the client regarding extra cost and timeline extension.
How You Can Manage Scope Creep
- Clear, well-managed scope is a key element to successful projects. clients can contribute to clear scope by developing their own standards and codes of scope. Our idea of the scope is a short document that contains mainly the business need, the project vision, and high-level features in and out of scope. These are all items that executives should be able to articulate on their own.
- Scope statements should include both features in and out of scope. A robust scope that decomposes deliverables into work packages is a must. The decomposed deliverables form the basis for beginning detailed requirements analysis.
- What does not get done in the scope of works is just as important as what does get done.
- Business analysts can contribute to clear scope with effective requirements elicitation and by analyzing and documenting clear, complete, and concise requirements. This takes time, of course, and the project team needs to plan for the time and be firm about it in the project schedule.
- The project manager needs to work with the sponsor to either negotiate a later delivery date for the project or reduce its scope when the date is fixed.
- To help clarify the scope early in the project, the systems analyst could have used scope models and diagrams, such as Business Process Models and Use Case Diagrams. They provide a visual aid to clarify scope, leading to a more effective sharing of “mental models” with stakeholders.
- Ensure you create an addendum to your scope of works for the extra work required and that all elements of the new features to be added are covered and priced accordingly.
- Above all, you have to manage the clients “Expectations”, If the client feels that you are a pushover then they will take advantage of this and abuse your time.
Your work in development and design is just as important as anything that the client does in their business. Be clear in your “Scope of Works Documentation”. Do not allow the client to push you into a position where you have to complete work for free. By creating a scope of works and tying this into the final contract you will be able to manage the client’s expectations.
Remember that you have a contract to complete the project on time and that is your main goal, point out to the client that you are happy to complete the works once you and the client have agreed on an appropriate compensation for the extra features and time required to complete the new scope of works.
If you follow the advice in this guide you will find that many clients are happy to eliminate the request for extra works and carry on with the original project scope of works.
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