One of the many challenging things I experienced in my former life as a digital marketing account manager was scope creep. Scope creep occurs when you’ve already started a project and someone requests a change or a new direction that impacts your process, timeline, and costs.
Those who manage projects and constantly fall victim to scope creep don’t have the best reputation: whether it’s your fault or not, delivering a ballooning project six months late and $500K over budget just doesn’t look good. So not surprisingly, keeping projects in scope is a topic that comes up a lot in the project management forums on LinkedIn. Thanks to my own years in the trenches and smart advice from other PMs, I’ve come to realize that controlling scope is all about advance planning and meticulous documentation. Here are four steps to undertake in that vein.
Outline Your Purpose
When everyone is on the same page regarding why you’re doing the project and what you’re expected to achieve, you prevent surprises later on. Before you do anything else, get your purpose and anticipated results down on paper and share them with your sponsor and all relevant stakeholders. One of the most common causes of scope creep is misunderstanding, or various parties with different ideas about project outcomes. So now is the time to invite detailed feedback, and don’t proceed with development until everyone agrees.
List Your Deliverables
Projects can’t be all things to all people, so you’ll need to plan carefully and prioritize your focus. Think about what output or functionality should be delivered when, as well as aspects like timeline, budget, development approach, quality assurance, and launch. List them in order from most critical to least critical, and get sign-off from your stakeholders so that everyone understands the method behind your madness.
For more on keeping your project in scope, head over to Intuit's Fast Track blog.