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What is Scope Creep in Project Management?

We all know that scope defines the work required in a project. And that managing scope is part and parcel of a project manager’s role, especially once the project is underway and scope creep begins to rear its head. Which brings up the question: what is scope creep in project management?

What is 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.

Scope creep is typically caused by key project stakeholders changing requirements, or sometimes from internal miscommunication and disagreements. This post tackles several ways it creeps up on projects along with tips on how to nip it in the bud.

While it might result in project delays, roadblocks, or going over budget, scope creep is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember that change is inevitable. Customer needs do change over time and delivering a project that answers their needs often means altering the scope. Scope creep is therefore a reality that every good project manager expects and plans for.

How to Manage Project Scope

Changes to scope can be either uncontrolled, resulting in scope creep, or controlled, resulting in documented changes to the project requirements. Managing scope creep then boils down to controlling those changes in scope via a change control process. This involves:

  • Monitoring the project’s status and baseline scope
  • Comparing actual work performance measurements with the baseline scope using variance analysis: “How different is the current project from the original plan?”
  • Determining the cause and the degree of the changes found
  • Deciding on change requests, i.e. whether corrective or preventive action is needed
  • Managing all change requests and recommended actions (whether corrective or preventive actions) via the Perform Integrated Change Control process
  • If approved change requests affect the project’s overall scope and cost baseline, then the scope statement, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and/or cost baseline is updated and sent out to stakeholdersIn short, all changes are processed, documented, and communicated properly.

     

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