Scope Creep is a quite common phenomenon seen in most of the engineering projects. Managing the Scope creep is one of the challenges that a Project Manager needs to tackle in a controlled manner in order to ensure the success of the project. Scope which is also known as feature creep, if left uncontrolled have the potential to destroy the project resulting in the wastage of valuable resources and cause severe damage to the reputation of the organization.

Scope creep can happen in any kind of project, even if the project scope is very well-defined in the beginning. Such creeps in scope can be due to the additional requirements which are identified by the stakeholders, during the execution of the project. These requirements can be in the  in the form of new features to enhance the efficiency of the final product or may be to ensure the adherence to safety regulations as interpreted by the authorities. Some of the most common causes of scope creep are as follows:

  • Poor Specifications: Scope creep is inevitable if the specifications of the deliverables of a project are not defined very clearly in the beginning of the project. The specifications should be made with the involvement of all the concerned stakeholders and should be frozen prior to the engineering phase.
  • Ineffective Change Control: Every project should have a Change Control Plan according to which any change in the specifications of project deliverables is approved and accepted by the stakeholders. Inefficient management of Change Control would lead to the acceptance of increase in scope without any corresponding increase in the price of the deliverable.
  • Project Complexity: The more complex a project is, the more in the chance of scope creep. For example in a project which involves very high-end technology and extensive R&D activities, the probability of occurrence of scope creeps are very high.
  • Gold Plating: This is the process of adding more work to the existing scope of a project with a belief that it adds value to the project deliverable and in some cases to build a good relation with the customer. While it is okay to be flexible to a certain extent, it should be remembered that excessive dependence on such acts to please the customer would lead to the increased scope of the project without any added monetary benefit.
  • Demanding Customer: A difficult customer who always demand for more value without any cost is definitely bound to contribute towards increasing the scope of the project. It would be very difficult for the Project Manager to handle such requests, especially if the client is a very important player in shaping  the Business Plans of the organization.
  • Poor Communication: Communication is the most important part of any Project. poor communication between the stakeholders can lead to scope creep and thereby affect the success of the project. For example if the schedule and expected results of trials are not communicated clearly in advance to the client, the client representative may come unprepared for the trials, which can lead to the delay and confusion during the trail process which in turn may warrant the repeat of the whole procedure. This not only increases the scope of the project but also results in the waste of valuable resources.
  • Inefficient Project Management: The scope of  a project would increase uncontrollably if it is managed by an inefficient Project Manager. The Project Manager should be proactive to tackle any prospect of scope creep head-on and to practically resolve it in the best interest of the organization and project finance. He should be quick to identify the potential scope creeps and ethically turn it around to make it an opportunity to get more work and thereby more profit for the organization.

If scope creep cannot be prevented, it must be managed efficently to prevent poject failure. A scope creep in any project means the additional requirement of resources which in turn leads to additional cost and time. If the increase in scope is not compensated in the monetary terms, the result is an erosion in the project margin. Therefore the Project Manager is expected to convince the client and transform the scope creep in to an opportunity to obtain additional work by treating it as a change request. Practically this is one of  the most difficult tasks that a Project Manager has to perform, as the client at all times would try to get the maximum benefit without any change in price. Adequate research must be done with the help of subject experts prior to committing any change in the scope and effort should be made to compensate any increase in scope with corresponding increase in the resources, schedule and budget.