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3 Essential Steps to Control Scope Creep

We think of scope creep as an insidious thing that grows just out of sight, like mildew in a bathroom. And sometimes that is exactly right. However, not all scope change is scope creep, and sometimes a change in scope can make the critical difference between creating business value or business waste. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Susanne Madsen outlines three steps to control scope change of all kinds:

  1. Be clear on what is in and out of scope.
  2. Plan for changes by adding contingency.
  3. Have a system for assessing the impact of each change.

Not So Creepy

The same way you can convince yourself you have found the love of your life and then realize a few months later that the person is horrible, a project manager can believe a project’s scope is crystal clear when the reality is nothing of the sort. In fact, Madsen believes that frequently “the scope statement is far too high level to be of any use.” Scope is the time to get granular, to ask clients a multitude of questions that help everyone visualize how the final product should look. A requirements traceability matrix may help toward this end.

Scope change is going to happen anyway though, so it is best to act accordingly. Add buffer into the project schedule in proportion to how risky or vague project requirements are. Likewise, quantify the cost of potential risks and factor that into your budget:

Say that there is a risk that you can’t source the right materials for your new groundbreaking glass roof of the house you are constructing and that you would need to change the design if the risk materialized. There is a 10% likelihood that this risk will happen, and in case it does, the impact will be a cost of £20,000. The cost of this risk is therefore 10% of £20,000, which is £2,000 that should be added to the budget as contingency.

Alternatively, you might be able to get a specified “change budget” authorized, funds that are only ever accessed to pay for approved changes. This should brace you for the moment of truth: when changes are actually asked. If the change requested is severe, escalate it to the project steering committee or change board and allow them to make the call about whether the change is worthwhile. In any case, assess the impact of requested changes and decide if the project can tolerate it. When changes are approved, log them and go through the channels you have built to make sure they are properly funded.

It is easy to treat every scope change as a godless hassle, but when you have already put in the effort to manage change, it may not be such a challenge at all. You can view the original post here:

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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