What is scope creep in project management?
12 Aug

What is scope creep in project management?

Mahipal Nehra

What is scope creep in project management?

Scope creep in project management is a scenario where project scope derails from its intended track and consequences in project delays, cost overrun, decreased satisfaction, and failure in business value realization. In this blog, we will be discussing multiple factors that contribute to scope creep in our experiences and the steps that can be used to prevent ourselves from scope creep.

As we know no business can put in money for a long time in developing a product without reaping its benefits hence, we will have to draw deadlines for product development and business benefits realization from it. Let’s first understand the difference between a product and a project. The product is an overall solution that helps us in managing and performing operations for business whereas a project is a subpart of this product that focuses on increasing efficiency to meet the values in business benefits realization roadmap of the product. When we try to build a big product, we have a broader vision that keeps on getting bigger as the business and its competitors evolve hence the more chances to go off-track from our intended path that’s why the products are divided into smaller projects.

What is scope creep?

Scope creep is developing additional features, functions, and requirements of a project or product which is not authorized and approved. Considering the factors i.e. cost, time, scope, and quality of the project management triangle also known as the iron triangle, we have a limit in the scope of a project with respect to tight deadlines and budget to reap the business benefits.

How does scope creep occur in projects?

Scope creep occurs with less involvement of sponsors and stakeholders in different stages of project development as they intend to manage their busy schedules. The less involvement imposes the responsibility of understanding the project scope on development teams and they might misunderstand the requirements as the gap is left out by skipping meetings. If we try to summarise what we have experienced so is that the following factors contribute to building scope creep:

8 factors contributing to scope creep

1. Vague Scope Definition

Project scope has different definitions from perspectives of sponsors, stakeholders, and development teams. A sponsor explains his or her business needs in a non-technical aspect where they think about developing a competitive advantage over its peers by reducing operational efficiency and empowering customer delight. Business analysts are responsible for eliciting these requirements and find the gaps even before the development starts to curb the project charter from derailing the desired track. Since sponsors have been experiencing their business for years so they often approach development partners with a document that is often considered enough by development teams to build the project but this approach is not right. Sponsors neither have the process-driven gap analysis approach nor do they have the technical depths insight.

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2. Poor Change Control

Change control is a process in Informational technology to ensure that changes proposed to a system, product, or project are proposed in a controlled and contributed manner. Change control can be described as a set of six steps:

  • Plan / Scope
  • Assess / Analyse
  • Review / Approval
  • Build / Test
  • Implement
  • Close

In change control risk assessments to eliminate unnecessary changes and implication foresight for the intended ones. The goals of a change control procedure intend including minimal disruption to services, reduction in back-out activities, and cost-effective utilization of resources involved in implementing change.

After reading this you know as the clients demand faster deliveries it becomes very difficult to manage strict change control. In such scenarios, the project charter does not allow enough time for analysis and approval which often leads us to scope creep.

3. Poor Change Management

Change management is the broader aspect of change control where we focus on RACI (responsibility, accountability, consultation, and informing) the respective individuals for reviewing and approving changes. Following are the main activities of change management:

  • Filtering changes
  • Managing changes and the change process
  • Chairing the TAB (Technical Advisory Board) and technical assessment of changes
  • Chairing the CAB (Change Advisory Board) and the CAB/Emergency committee
  • Reviewing and closing of Requests for Change (RFCs)
  • Management reporting and providing management information

As we discussed different people have different understandings of scope depending on their job role so, when reviews and approvals are not done by the authorized person it creates chaos in scope elicitation which consequences in creating gaps and pitfalls. Even if the scope is elicited correctly the people often fail to consult and inform the other accountable parties which mess up other modules of the project as well. Hence, we should always have great change management.

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4. Poor communication between stakeholders

These days we are moving ahead with agile software development practices where hefty documentation is avoided to adapt the changes easily and rapidly. Without the hefty documentation, it is impossible to convey the effects of rapidly coming changes to all the stakeholders. If they do not communicate frequently at regular intervals then we can expect ambiguous definitions of changes and scope which will bring scope creep in the project.

5. Lack of Stakeholder Involvement

Stakeholders are often busy with dozens of tasks hence it becomes difficult for them to be available in every meeting and discussion. When they start skipping the meetings then project managers and development teams often translate the scope differently from what it should be. Without the lack of stakeholder involvement, it becomes extremely difficult for the business analyst to drill down the business process to find gaps, associated risks, and prioritizing the business value.

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6. Conflicting the scope of product with a project

The scope of a product is much bigger than the scope of a project. If often happens that development teams try to solve too many problems for the product within a project, what they need to understand is that project is laser-focused on a deliverable which can translate to business benefits realization as early as possible. Products are divided into various projects because the product manager wanted a continuous stream of business benefits realization from all the projects of a product on the agreed priority. Hence a charter with limited requirement, cost, and deadline was prepared to achieve a competitive advantage.

7. The pace of evolution in business

The skyrocketing competition and uncertainties like coronavirus pandemic enforce businesses to evolve at a much rapid pace than it used to in the 20th century. Business such as swiggy (the food delivery app) transformed their business model where they pivoted from their original product category of food deliveries to broadening up the scope of their services and started delivering groceries. Such transitions require extremely agile, nimble, and dynamic systems to adapt the business transition as quickly as possible. If such systems were not thought of in the first place then they could have resulted in the bankruptcy of a start-up unicorn.

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8. The pace of technological evolution

The evolution of cloud computing brought us enormous amounts of services in SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Whenever we start building a project new services keep on launching throughout the world which poses a serious threat because in a jiffy these can push the development teams into competitively disadvantageous positions. Such a pace of technological evolution can consequence in the uselessness of ongoing projects anytime.

How to prevent scope creep from occurring in projects?

We will be talking about the preventive measures briefly for all the 8 contributing factors of scope creep.

Vague Scope Definition

Sponsors or clients: Focus on the project instead of a product. Target limited features that can translate into business value realization as early as possible.

Software Development Company: Establish a compact and clear change management process.

Project Managers: Decompose user stories and deliverables to smaller parts to have a detailed view of the scope.

Business Analysts: Elicit the scope in a compact yet visually detailed view. You can use SIPOC analysis, functional diagrams, state diagrams, event and response tables, decision trees, and BPMN diagrams.

Poor Change Control

The software development process and the team should follow a hierarchy where people in each layer communicates with the layer of people immediately above them or below. RACI is a tool that can be used to help with the adaptation of good change control. Such practice will help in curbing the ambiguous scope definitions, adapting changes in the development backlog after review, and approval from authorized persons in the project. The strict process will also be helpful in consulting the resourceful people in the project and keep all the stakeholders and team members informed about the changes. Good Change control will lead to less chaotic development and effective usage of resources.

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Poor Change Management

Establishing good change management is the high-level responsibility of software development organizations where they implicate Change management hierarchy as a part of their business operations hierarchy. With such an approach a track record can be maintained for each project which will be helpful in implementing good change management for all the projects under development across the organization.

Poor communication between stakeholders

Since we do not have hefty documentation then the stakeholders need to communicate with each other frequently at regular intervals to know if new changes have been proposed, approved and what will be the risk associated with them. Good communication is key to understanding the nitty-gritty observed in change control with agile software development practices.

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Lack of Stakeholder Involvement

  • Business analysts and development teams need to plan meetings and send notifications more than 24 hours ago.
  • Prepare the agenda for the meeting and send it with a notification email so that stakeholders come prepared for the meeting.
  • Ask the right questions with a combination of open and close-ended questions to clear the understanding of project requirements.
  • They should not include stakeholders who are not required in that meeting.
  • Try to keep fewer numbers of stakeholders in the meeting as their opinions can lead to scope ambiguity.

Conflicting the scope of product with a project

Focus on the elicited scope and requirements and do not divert your efforts on solving other problems because it will result in chaos, project delays, failures, and cost overruns.

The pace of evolution in business

  • Get the MVP and proof of concepts to lead the development.
  • Always leave a place for adaptability in the project to extend it so that a broader business scope is covered if needed.
  • Always use stable tech stack as you will be able to get tons of libraries that can support rapid application development if needed.

Read: What is agile software development?

The pace of technological evolution

Breakdown the products in the following way and focus on reaping the business value instead of developing all the desired features in a product.

Product -> Project -> Modules -> Milestones -> Features -> MVP

Procurement of application features in such a way potentially eliminates the threat of uselessness of developed features because we are reaping the benefits as early as possible.

Posted by Mahipal Nehra | Posted at 12 Aug, 2020 Web