In an effort to make a good impression on clients, it can be easy to say yes to small requests that fall outside of your original agreement. After all, an extra 15 minutes here or there is worth it to keep a client happy… or is it?
Scope management is a key element of the client-consultant relationship. Scope creep—when new provisions, tasks, or unexpected deliverables outside of an existing scope of work are added to a project—can lead to missed deadlines, overrun budgets, and client dissatisfaction.
The success of a project requires not only your expertise, but an alignment with your client’s business objectives and experienced internal supporters who have the communication skills needed to ensure success. While this is not an exhaustive list, all of the warning signs listed below can lead to scope creep.
1. Lay a strong foundation: It will be much easier to identify and manage scope creep if you start with a well-defined project scope. Before you document project scope, be rigorous in gathering requirements and interviewing stakeholders to ensure you have a full picture of what the project will entail.
2. Set clear and measurable objectives. Your project plan should clearly articulate the work that will be done with milestones and metrics.
3. Communicate the impact of scope creep. Ultimately, you are the project manager and it is important that you are able to clearly articulate how any project changes will impact the overall quality and performance of the project. As the expert, you need to be able to say no to any changes that will have a negative impact or that will not add value. You may even discuss saving certain changes until the project is completed, and then have a plan for a follow-up project to tackle outstanding items.
4. Prepare for success. A project kick-off meeting will help you set the stage for success. Establish roles and accountability for all stakeholders and define a process for regular check-ins to keep the project on track.
5. Recognize that life happens. Things rarely go exactly according to plan, so it’s important to have a change control process in place. This may include having a change sign-off process and addressing compensation for extra tasks or time.
6. Examine your bill rate. Scope creep can have a dramatic impact on your earnings—a little here and there can significantly reduce your bill rate. One way to manage scope creep is to ensure your bill rate covers not only cost, but the value you deliver to your clients.
Remember, prevention is the best cure for scope creep. Taking the time to fully research and gather requirements for a project will help you understand and develop a well-defined project scope that minimizes scope creep. By being able to identify the signs of scope creep you will be better able and prepared to proactively manage it.