December 3, 2014

Top 10 ways to stop scope creep!

You can prevent and adapt to scope creep with these five steps!

You can prevent and adapt to scope creep with these five steps!

Great — now that I have your attention, it’s time for the ol’ bait-and-switch. Instead of offering 10 ways to stop scope creep, I’ll describe the five things you need to prevent and adapt to scope creep. If you’re a project or account manager who has worked in an agency, you’re very familiar with scope creep, whether you have six months or 20 years of experience. If you’re lucky enough to have no idea what I’m talking about, scope creep happens when a project deviates from the original direction outlined in the project plan. It’s simply a part of the business — and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can adjust, adapt and produce the best work under the circumstances.

Here are the five things I promised:

A project plan (statement of work): This is the single most important piece of documentation of any project. Without this document you have no real basis to determine if scope creep actually exists, besides emails and phone calls — and we all know what can happen when we rely on emails and phone calls.

A change order process: You must have a process in place to accept a change request from a client. It’s the first step in evaluating the total effect of the request. This process should involve referencing the project plan to make sure the change is still in line with the original goals. If the goals have changed, you’ll need to notate your project plan as well as your change order process. Trust me — it’s worth the effort.

Team setup: We all have clients who change their minds a lot. They repeatedly ask for revisions that affect the scope of the project. It’s important to have an agile team with a positive attitude. A good team will help absorb the scope creep and find the best solution rather than waste time complaining.

Project management: A good team needs a great manager. An effective project manager will help evaluate the change and educate the client on its impact. Which leads me to…

Client education: Sometimes “a simple change” can severely affect a project or campaign. A great AE and PM team will walk the client through the suggested changes and explain their impact on the project — including additional time to complete the project, which means additional dollars. Educating the client on the effect of the scope creep and weighing its value against the project goals is your best course of action to keep the creep from happening in the first place.

Remember, scope creep happens. But with the right plan and process, a good team and manager, and a little client schooling, you’ll be ready to combat — or at least adapt to — the change.