Dealing With Scope Creep

Scope creep happens. You can’t scope out every project so perfectly that you hit every nail right on the head. It does happen, but I find it’s rare. Not always because it was a missed set of work, but maybe you’ve reached that point in a project where things are more defined and you notice there are good features missing from the original intended outcome.

What is scope creep anyway?

Scope creep is a project management term used when new additions, adjustments, or changes are requested but were never discussed before project start.

There are many ways scope creep can crop up in your project, but it usually falls in a few ways…

  • Scope was never defined properly
  • Not all parties weighed in (your clients boss decides they needed something both of you missed)
  • Client didn’t realize they were asking for much more beyond current scope
  • Someone realized X feature would be great to have added to the project

Scope creep is generally associated as being a negative but it doesn’t always have to be if you’re prepared to handle it.

Assessing the damage

First thing I do is evaluate how bad the scope creep is…

  • Did I blatantly miss something critical?
  • Would it be easy for me to implement or change?
  • Can I do it in less than 20 minutes?

If I answer “yes” to at least 2 out of 3, it’s very likely I just go ahead and make the changes. If I think the client will push further with more changes now that I’ve gone out of scope “on the house” then I make sure it’s known I would normally charge based on my hourly rate, with a 1 hour minimum, and that anything beyond this change will need a change order.

But what if it’s a ton of work?

Jump for joy!

Explain that you would love to do the extra work, but unfortunately it was not discussed and out of original scope of work. If you want the work then breakdown how much it would cost to do it and how long it would take.

I make sure to send a change order that has the cost detailed along with my reply just to make it feel more official so they are armed with everything needed to give the no or go.

There’s really only two outcomes:

  • Deal without
  • Accept the extra cost/timeline

If you really have to…

If it’s truly unreasonable or could start interfering with your other projects, feel free to say “No.” Just not in the literal sense… Remain polite, professional, and let the client know that you are unable because it would run into your other projects, but that you’re glad to create a new project with them and schedule it for when it makes sense.

And most importantly…

Don’t forget that there might be a good chance the client didn’t actually realize what they were requesting was “wrong” of them. Give people the benefit of the doubt every once in awhile and don’t be so quick to ask for more money if you don’t have to.

Some clients are worth throwing in some free work, but the best clients will know your time is valuable and that it costs to get that time.

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