Do you recall how many times this scenario has happened to you? You plan to purchase or build something, and allocate a certain amount of money for this purpose.
However, when you proceed with your plan, many new requirements are added to it, until at last you end up with an entirely new product.
This situation may be okay for you, because here you are the person who is planning, and executing the project and more importantly – you are the end user of the product and the one spending money on it.
In our life it happens many times and we even don’t care about it. But when it comes to professional life — it is a different case.
Let us say that you are managing a project and some extra functions are added to the product, either knowingly or unknowingly, and these changes are not stated in the scope statement.
This is a bad practice and it is known as either scope creep or gold plating. Scope creep and gold plating both bring the changes in the final product; however, the mechanism of these changes is different in each case.
Scope creep refers to the uncontrolled changes in scope due to either interference of the customer or due to misunderstanding of the scope by the project team or the project manager. On the other hand, gold plating refers to intentionally adding the extra features or functions to the product which were not included in the product’s scope.
Gold plating is usually performed to make the client happy.
Okay. Let’s dig more…
Scope creep is also known as requirement creep, which refers to the uncontrolled changes in the project’s or product’s scope.
Scope creep happens in the project for following reasons:
- Due to interference from the client.
- Due to an incomplete scope statement.
- Due to a poor change control system.
- Due to miss-communication among the team members.
- Due to reasons external to organizations; e.g. market conditions, regulatory requirements, or technological advancements.
Scope creep is considered bad for the project health and it must be avoided in all cases. Here, you make some changes without any proper review, and in later stages it may create many problems. And then you will have to implement many other changes just to cover up the changes made in earlier stages.
However, please bear in mind that if the scope is changed and schedule and budget are also changed to reflect the change in scope, it cannot be called scope creep. Scope creep happens when the scope of product is changed and the project budget and schedule remain unchanged.
Consequences of scope creep may include delayed schedule and cost overrun. If you do not control the scope creep, then you may have problems with successfully completing your project, or in severe cases it may be terminated.
Suppose you are building a 100 foot wall for the client, and client comes to the team and asks them to increase the length of wall by one foot. Team members think that there is a lot of material lying around on the site, and it will make no difference to them to build just one foot of the wall; therefore, they go ahead and build the extra length of wall.
How to Avoid the Scope Creep
Scope creep is not something that couldn’t be avoided. Of course it can be. You can avoid scope creep by following below given guidelines.
- Never allow changes without proper review and approval.
- Establish a communication channel between client and you. Don’t let them talk directly to your project team members.
- Prepare a solid and complete scope statement.
- Establish a robust change control system.
- Establish and encourage good communication among the team members.
- Keep proper checks on the project’s progress.
If you follow the above guidelines I believe that you will avoid many problems dealing with scope creep.
Gold plating means intentionally adding extra features or functions to the products which were not included in the scope statement.
Usually gold plating is performed by either the project team or the project manager with no additional cost to the client. Gold plating is done with good intentions and most of the time is appreciated by the clients; however, there are many cases where it is not liked and the gold plating is backfired because you are adding some features to the product which were not demanded by the client. This might be considered as an unauthorized change in the scope and the client can refuse to accept the product.
Gold plating is very common in software programming and is done by team members to show their abilities, or by the project manager to the make client happy.
Following are a few causes of gold plating:
- Team member may add extra functions to prove his abilities to the project manager.
- Project manager may add extra functions to earn credit from the client or the top management.
- Sometimes it is performed to divert the attention of the client from the defects in the product.
Although, gold plating sounds good to everyone, it is bad for the project team and the project manager in the long run. Gold plating increases the input cost (though, in many cases it does not appear to be high), increases the risk, and the expectation of the customer is elevated. If you do another project for the same customer, he would again expect you to deliver a product with extra features. And if you do not do so he will be dissatisfied.
Let us say that you are building a software program for the client. Your programmer comes to you and says that he can add some extra features to the program with almost no effort which will increase the functionality of the product, and the client will like it. You also agree with him, and allow him to add this extra functionality.
How to Avoid Gold Plating
Avoiding Gold Plating is easier than avoiding scope creep. Below are a few guidelines to help you avoid gold plating:
- You should never allow team member to add any extra function or features to the product without approval.
- As a project manager you should also avoid it.
- You must establish proper communication lines within the project team.
As a project manager, it is your job to keep monitoring the activities of the project and stop unwanted actions which may lead your project into troubles such as scope creep and gold plating.
This topic is very important from a PMP Exam point view. You can expect see at least one or two questions in your PMP test on this topic.