In your eagerness to please your consulting clients, it is easy to say "yes" to small requests that are outside of your original agreement. After all, an extra 15 minutes here or there is worth it to keep a client… or is it? Scope management is a key element of managing the client-consultant relationship. Scope creep, meaning unforeseen changes or additions outside of the original scope, can lead to missed deadlines, budget overruns and client dissatisfaction.
Warning Signs of Scope Creep:
- 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
While not an exhaustive list, all of the above can lead to scope creep. The success of a project requires not only your expertise, but an alignment with the organization's business objectives and experienced internal supporters who have organization and communication skills to ensure success.
6 Simple Tips for Scope Management
- 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 the project scope, be rigorous in gathering requirements and interviewing stakeholders.
- Set clear and measureable objectives. Your project plan should clearly articulate the work that will be done with milestones and metrics.
- 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 original project. As the expert, say "no" to any changes that will have a negative impact or will not add value. You may even discuss saving changes until the project is near completion and have a plan for a follow-on project to tackle those items.
- Prepare for success. A project kick-off meeting will help you to 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.
- Life happens. Things rarely go exactly according to plan, so it is 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.
- Examine your bill rate. Scope creep can have a dramatic impact on your earnings. A little here and a little there can significantly reduce your bill rate. One way to manage scope creep is to ensure that your bill rate covers not only cost, but the value that you deliver to your clients. Use our bill rate calculator if you're not sure how to deterimine your ideal rate.
One final thought...
Prevention is the best cure for scope creep. Taking the extra time to gather requirements can help you understand and develop a well-defined project management scope that minimizes scope creep. You will also be better prepared to identify the signs of scope creep and proactively manage it.
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