What is Project Scope Creep? (And The Best Ways to Avoid it)

Esther Mayer
December 6, 2022
3 minute read

Before we give a scope creep definition, let’s first talk about what ‘project scope’ refers to. Project scope is the agreed upon deliverables of a project. For example, if a creative agency agrees to create an advert, a brochure, and a video script for a client’s ad campaign, anything else would not be within the project scope.

 

What is scope creep in project management?

Scope creep is unauthorized changes to the original project scope which results in additional work and change to the initial scope of the project.

The following scenario clearly illustrates this concept:

Picture a cat creeping up behind a mouse. The mouse is going about its business without a clue of the danger lurking behind him until…it’s too late!

The cat is scope creep and the mouse is your project. Things like last-minute tasks and budget overrun can stealthily creep up on your project, until BOOM, you’ve missed the project deadline, or you’ve gone irreparably over budget. Managing scope creep is difficult once it has started, so here we have a blog to clue you in on how to avoid it.

 

What are some scope creep examples?

A physical building project is easy to imagine, so let’s use that as an example of scope creep meaning. Before embarking on the project, the project management team sits down with all stakeholders to clarify what exactly is included in the building project. It’s decided that the project team will be responsible for all aspects of the external building, but not for any internal building. 

Now, the building project has just started, when the project manager gets an urgent call from the client, informing her that some major, unexpected excavations will have to take place before foundations can be laid. The project team forges ahead, trying to get the excavations underway as fast as possible. The project moves along nicely, until three-quarters of the way through, our poor project manager receives a string of impatient emails, demanding when the building will finally be finished-it’s almost the deadline! Well, the deadline comes and goes, and the building is still in the scaffolding stages. Is anyone surprised? 

If scope is added once a project has started, like the last-minute excavations in this example, scope creep causes the project to lag behind, and miss its deadline. And of course, extra scope means extra money spent on the project, which means less money for the project team, and in bad cases, it leaves you with less money than when you started! 

 

How do you avoid scope creep?

  •  Get everyone on the same page. Before you start anything, you want to get all stakeholders to agree on the project scope. Discuss it, document it, and get everyone to sign the scope statement. Obvious as it sounds, one of the foremost causes of scope creep, is a lack of scope planning.

  • Establish a change request process. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to go past stage 1. However, scope change happens to the best of projects, so we need a protocol for preventing scope creep when those inevitable change requests come up. What will happen when someone requests a change to the project scope? That is what you need to establish from the beginning. If the change is approved, it needs to be integrated into the project plan.

  • Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Get really clear on what the project entails, as well as when, and by whom, tasks are going to get done. This way, you’re likely to notice scope creep straight away.

  • Communicate with stakeholders and project team: Ensuring that stakeholders are clear on your scope change policies will smooth out any hiccups down the line. There won’t be any surprises if you say “no” to scope additions or subject requests to your scope change request process. Also, make sure your project team is clear on scope change policies. It’s easy for team members to agree to ‘just one more thing', without you even knowing about it.



How Workamajig helps you avert scope creep

Workamajig’s end-to-end project management platform provides 20/20 visibility into your project’s health, enabling you to avoid scope creep naturally!

  • Know the full story with a real-time daily feed of all updates across projects
  • Budget or timeline at risk? See all items needing attention in one place with project warnings

 

  • Build smarter estimates with labor & expenses, based on your workflows & resources, using client-specific rate sheets
  • Automatically track & include quotes from vendors. Plus, get custom-branded & beautiful estimate templates
  • Convert approved estimates to budgets, see estimated profits & track actuals against budgets in real-time

 

  • Know exactly where your project stands with budget breakdowns by item, type, task or person
  • See the big picture with view, filter & drill-down options across multiple project budgets
  • Stay ahead of the curve with customizable budget status notifications & health meters

Steer clear of creep in one Workamajig leap!

 

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