Protect Against Creeping Project Scope

Fighting project scope may sound like a fresh breath campaign but it’s more important for project managers who find themselves going over budget and missing deadlines. A little preparation goes a long way (but we can’t promise minty fresh breath when all is said and done).
A Daily Record article promoting a project management training course is just an advertorial but it does provide good insight and thoughts on dealing with the issue. As the article points out, “Managing project scope has a lot to do with establishing limits and defining what needs to be done by who from the beginning, and scope creep only occurs later when these restrictions are exceeded.”
Project scope needs to be set when the project is defined – and not while in the midst of the project. ” Managing project scope has a lot to do with establishing limits and defining what needs to be done by who from the beginning, and scope creep only occurs later when these restrictions are exceeded. The term applies to situations in which additional work is added to the project without corresponding changes to budgets or schedules and this takes a toll on resources, finances and time the project team are able to devote,” is the advice given.
Scope creep is an odd phrase but it has a major impact. “In fact, many failures in project management can be attributed to scope creep and its associated problems, and the ability manage this problem is vital for project managers. There are many reasons for its occurrence too, as sometimes it is the project manager’s fault when requirements are not properly outlined, or the client has allowed extra work to be done without addressing the situation,” the article advises.
MBO Partners, a provider of management services, says on its website:

The early signs of scope creep are visible long before there are scope changes. Warning signs of scope creep include:
Project is vision-oriented but without clearly defined, measurable tasks and/or deliverables
The project does not have a clear business case
Lack of strong executive support
Stakeholders are not involved or supporting the project
Internal project manager lacks experience dealing with size and/or complexity of project
Actual work takes longer or is more complex than initially identified
Issues are not being resolved or require a project change in order to close
So, what can be done to tackle the problem? “Project managers must thus be clear about what the client should expect from the service their organization is providing, thus eliminating confusion later in the day, and specific about the benefits they can expect to enjoy on their end. Without this, the expectations of the client may begin to exceed the actual ability or intentions of the project team and this will inevitably lead to scope creep when these two ideas collide,” the article says.
Of course, some scope creep is inevitable. “Changes are something that happens in almost all projects, and the ramifications of these changes are what a project manager needs to track and manage so as to avoid scope creep from negatively impacting the overall quality of a project. Communication and planning are key here, with a mutual understanding reached between the client and project manager vital to managing shifting requirements and circumstances,” the article concludes.
Project management consultant Shelly Doll, writing at, says not all project scope creep is bad. “For in-house software development, additional features could give your product the edge over your competition. But, that edge is lost if you release a month or two late. Regardless of the perceived effects of scope creep, cost is the bottom line. By controlling your cost of development and by delivering on time, your project can be a success, without compromising flexibility in production,” she says.