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Rupinder N

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Scope Creep


Scope Creep is a concept picked up from the Project Management domain. It is defined as the addition of features and/or functionality during the life cycle of the project (over and above the scope that was originally signed off) without doing the due diligence on time, cost, resources or without the customer approval.
Scope creep happens to be one of the prominent reasons for project failures.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Mohamed Asif on 09th August 2019.


Applause for the respondents- Natwar Lal, Mohamed Asif, Ram Rajagopalan, Sumant Sood, Sharad Talvalkar & Praveen Kumar K


Q. 183  Define the term "Scope Creep" . How can you identify scope creep and how can you prevent it? What are the ways to deal with scope creep caused by different parties involved - team members, users, stakeholders etc?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.


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Scope Creep:
When we start any project, one of the key initial steps that we take is defining scope (What is in-scope and what is out of the boundary, i.e., out of scope)


Change is unavoidable so Change in scope is also inevitable based on current performance and situation. 

Anything (additional features, requirements, considerations to existing) that is added over and above the accepted/agreed upon scope is Scope Creep.


Would like to quote an example from software development (traditional - Water Fall and agile) or even in an DMAIC six sigma project scope creep can happen at any of the phases. 




Below image gives a view of scope change iterations in each sprint delivery in an agile environment




Iteration scope change along with Scrum Master’s expertise will allows better management of scope change and control it. 



"Control your projects or your projects will control you!" :P:P:P - Anonymous


Simple definition of Scope creep would be any changes that is introduced to the project post requirement gathering phase.




CHANGE is not usually Bad !!!

Change is necessary in order to sustain competition


When do we usually have scope creep?

It can be Market Demand, New Technology, Change in Business Need, Development Constraints 

Some of the additional scenarios would be

  •     When change control is uncommon
  •     Poor scope identification (initial analysis) and definition during project charter stage
  •     When communication is not apparent
  •     When there is external Influence 
  •     Bad project planning and deployment
  •     Dynamic market change
  •     Quick change over / Late point differentiation (Usually for a matured process/product)
  •     When Project Manager is frail
  •     When initial scope definition is no more applicable

Impact of Scope Creep:

  • Project cost overrun
  • Mix-up / Misunderstanding of new requirement

How do we identify Scope Creep:

Scope definition itself is not a simple process, it has various below steps / documents, viz.,

Scope Planning,

Scope Definition,

Scope Work Breakdown Structure

Scope verification &

Scope Change Control.


So scope definition is obviously critical and vital step.. so when ever there is deviation or when there is a scope creep, we will have to rapidly take necessary immediate actions.


Identify scope creep by when there is misalignment with objectives, deviation from deliverables, multiple change request from external stake holders, and most importantly anticipate and ensure availability during scheduled project connects [Do NOT wait for situations to come up, Be Proactive] .   


How do we avoid Scope Creep:

Document the requirement details

Create SMART objectives

Deploy Change Control Plan 

Prepare Clear and Attainable Project Schedule 

Verify, Validate and get SING-OFF from Stakeholders (before project start)

Engage the team

Create SOW (Statement of Work) to outline the work 

and monitor development progress


How do we manage Scope Creep:

If we are not managing Scope Creep, it could possibly have Negative impacts. 

Use a good project management tool/applications at your disposal (such as JIRA, Trello, Easy-projects) and In order to manage the changes some of the below best practices / actions can be taken

  • Define / Re-define the project scope
  • Re-baseline / measure change difference (Work re-estimation. Agile Eg., T-shirt sizing exercise with the development team)
  • Keep all stake holders informed
  • Update project cost document (Request for extra resources / cost if required..)
  • Update new target dead line / milestone document / Gantt Chart and communicate with project team, sponsor and supplier
  • Reprioritise WIP  


Managing Key Project team Members, Stake Holders and Users:


Keeping everyone informed is critical and is necessary in projects. so keep customers, users, members and stakeholders engaged.

  • Be Agile
  • Quote

    2nd Principle of Agile Manifesto "Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage".


  • Create 2 ways communication channel (Through tool/application/forums/meetings)
  • Ensure regular updates and information is available to all stakeholders at any point of time
  • Ensure time schedules for meetings are feasible and if required Re-schedule and Do not cancel meetings with out reasons 
  • Keep RACI Matrix updated and Key SPOC's defined during the project
  • Maintain relationship and request sign-off whenever required
  • Get USERS using the product or service at early stage

It is Ok to say "No" when it not possible to accept scope change (final stage, 11th hour feedback, when change doesn't make sense,...)

Keep developmental progress and details transparent. This would ensure team members are not demotivated and diverted from the objectives.   

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Scope is one of the vertex of the "Holy Trinity" of a successful project. The other two being Schedule and Budget. 


For any project to be successful, the trinity has to be maintained.


Scope Creep is changing the original boundaries of the project which adversely affects either the schedule or the budget of the project. Even though scope is decided early in the project, there are times when scope is kept intentionally fluid and may be it gets finalized mid way through the project. E.g. In a Six Sigma project, even though scope is part of Define phase, it may get revised until the early Analyze phase. Having said that, scope should get finalized and signed off by all relevant stakeholders as early as possible in the project. Scope revisions lead to rework and with each passing phase the cost of rework increases 10 times (rule of 10).


Some e.g. of Scope Creep

1. In a Six Sigma project: additional process steps are added to original SIPOC

2. In an IT project: additional functional points or product features get added

3. In a construction project: Change in the flooring design of a multi floor building

4. In a marriage project: addition of another function or expansion of the guest list at the last minute


Ways in which you could identify scope creep are

1. Customer / stakeholders / team members keep on changing the requirements resulting in a higher number of Change Requests

2. You find yourself going back to the drawing board

3. Repeated revisions to SIPOC and/or project charters 

4. Changes to the project timelines and/or budgets


PMBOK prescribes the following ways in which Scope Creep can be prevented

1. Exhaustive requirement collection, documentation

2. Requirement trace-ability matrix across the various phases of the project

3. Create an efficient Work Break Down Structure

4. Validate the scope with all stakeholders

5. Control the scope - limit the number of change requests once scope is frozen unless the sponsor is ready to bear the impact on schedule and/or the budget

6. Change Management principles of effective communication and periodic reviews (tollgates for important milestones). Continuously evaluate the actual delivered scope vs the baseline (original) scope




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Scope creep is change in the expected output post the finalization of contract. Though there are several reasons, it happens due to insufficient documentation and scoping, changes in customer expectations as the project progress, weak project management. Sometimes all stakeholders are not identified before the project starts. To manage scope creep, it is important to ensure a strong program manager, all project team members need to be aware of the project scope, strong governance in place. It is better to have the project broken to smaller sprints so that customer expectations are managed by incremental deliverables.

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Scope creep refers to continuous small, incremental changes that can lead to uncontrolled and unauthorized growth in the original project scope. It starts with a small change and as the changes increase the project scope keeps on becoming complex and unmanageable.

Scope creep is usually not advisable in a project but its not always possible to avoid as there are multiple stakeholders involved and as the project progresses, concerned people get more  insights and to improve the experience for end customer keeps changing the scope.  

Scope creep usually uses additional resources and leads to reduced profits and delays project timelines which leads to frustration and anxiety in the team.

Scope creep is not always detrimental but is sometimes helpful as it helps to build a better relationship with client, increases revenue if client is willing to pay for it & pushes the project team to look for opportunities and this can lead to a better project management in next projects.

Scope creep generally is due to following reasons:

1)   New addition in client team

2)   Asking additional features in the name of delighting end user

3)   Scope not defined clearly at the beginning. Scope defines what will be done and importantly also mentions what will be the boundaries. For this the operational definition should be clear and understood by all the parties involved.

We have seen that scope creep cannot be avoided altogether but it can be managed better so as to ensure that project deliverables are met without strain and stress

1)   Define scope clearly:

Involve the sponsor and get a clear understanding and have the communication channels defined. It’s a good idea to break the entire scope into manageable deliverables through Work Breakdown Structure.

2)   Define the change process:

Make a process on how the changes will be entertained and included in the scope. This way all the request changes will have a record and can be managed better. Revised scope can be discussed and agreed before going ahead with the change.

3)   Stakeholder Involvement:

Generally involvement of the stakeholders/ sponsor or client is there in the beginning but it thins down as the project progresses. Asking for key  decisions is ok but bombarding with everyday work and queries will lead to their less involvement and commitment.

4)   Communication with focus on stakeholders:

Regularly communicating to the stakeholders is very important. This keeps them involved and committed towards project success.

5)    Break Complex Projects:

Simplify the complex project into manageable smaller projects. Different key people can manage each sub project, smaller projects are easy to focus and handle. This keeps the enthusiasm and timelines can be managed.

6)   Monitor and Review closely:

Close monitoring on the use of resources and timelines helps to keep a track and avoids things spiraling out of hands.

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Define the term "Scope Creep" . How can you identify scope creep and how can you prevent it? What are the ways to deal with scope creep caused by different parties involved - team members, users, stakeholders etc?


Scope Creep Definition:  While preparing Project Charter one of the important points is to decide the scope. Scope may be defined in terms of Start Point & End Point or a Product or a service or a Work Area where we intend to make some improvement. Many a times there is an extension of the scope of a Project for various reason and this is known as Scope Creep. Examples. Suppose a company has two manufacturing plants, Plant A & B. Output from Plant A is input to Plant B. Initially it was decided to doValue Stream Mapping for Plant A right from its Supplier. Later on, it was decided to extend the Value Stream Mapping project right up to Plant B & till the end Customers so as derive better financial benefits. This extension of the Project is known as Scope Creep.  


How to prevent Scope Creep: Scope creep can be prevented by involving all the stake holders at the beginning of the project and arriving at a consensus about the scope of the project. This means there has to be proper deliberations & Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Business, Voice of Employees, Voce of Process should be taken into consideration while deciding the scope of the Project    Simultaneously project benefits should be worked out using clearly by using techniques like Internal Rate of Return, Present Value etc. 


Ways to Deal with Scope Creep: Effective communication with all the stake holders of the Project from time to time is one of the key aspects to avoid Scope Creep. Essentially any Project, challenges the status quo & entails a change. Therefore, John Kotter’s Principles of Change Management will be very useful in dealing with different parties for resolving the issue related to Scope Creep. Finally, the project manager needs to work with the sponsor to either negotiate a later delivery date for the project or reduce its scope to the original when the date is fixed.


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Scope creep refers to non standard grown in a new project assignment post the initiation. 

how to identify the creep? When the changes are properly tracked as part of change control 

How to prevent? 

Define the revised scope
track the changes
Request more  resources
Set Priorities
Avoid the traps 

What are the ways to deal with scope creep caused by different parties involved - team members, users, stakeholders etc?

Map all stakeholders, identify the priorities among them and impact, involve in regular reviews and sign off with each party onb scope

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The winning answer to this question is that of Mohamed Asif for great visuals and addressing each part of the question with a holistic view. Please read through Sumant's answer to understand that it may not always have a negative impact on the customer. 

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