scope creep and gold plating

You made a plan, but as you proceed many new requirements are added. Finally, you end up with something entirely new.

Do you remember how many times this has happened to you?

In our personal lives and we don’t care about it. However, it is an unacceptable business practice.

Assume that you are managing a project. A few extra functions are added, either knowingly or unknowingly. These changes are not stated in the scope statement.

This will impact your project’s cost and schedule baselines.

This is unacceptable behavior and it is known as scope creep or gold plating. They cause changes to the project scope or the final product. However, the mechanism of these changes is different in each case.

These are important concepts and many PMP aspirants do not understand them. So, I am writing this blog post. I hope after reading it, you will have a better understanding.

Scope Creep

Scope creep refers to uncontrolled changes in scope. This can be because of interference from the customer or a misunderstanding by the project management team. 

The scope can be the product scope or project scope.

Scope creep is also known as requirements creep. It occurs due to the following reasons:

  • Interference from the client.
  • An incomplete scope statement.
  • A poor change control system.
  • Miscommunication among the team members.
  • Reasons external to organizations: e.g., market conditions, regulatory requirements, or technological advancements.
  • Not checking on project activities.

Scope creep affects the project objectives negatively when change happens with the product or project with no analysis. This can create issues in later stages. You might end up implementing more changes to cover up those made in earlier stages.

Keep in mind that any change that passes through an integrated change management process is not scope creep. Here, you review it and adjust other project objectives to accommodate the change: for example, updating cost or schedule baselines due to a change.

Scope creep occurs when the scope of a product is changed. However, the budget and schedule remain unchanged. You did not perform any impact analysis.

Scope creep can cause cost overrun or schedule delays. If you do not control the scope creep, you may have problems with completing your project. In severe cases, your project may be terminated.


Suppose you are building a hundred-foot wall for a client. They approach your team members and asks them to increase the wall length by one foot. Your team members think they have enough waste material and one extra foot of wall length won’t make any difference. Therefore, they add the extra length without informing the project manager. They did not analyze the change impact.

How to Avoid Scope Creep

Following guidelines can help you avoid scope creep:

  • Never allow changes without proper review.
  • Establish a communication channel between the client and you. 
  • Don’t let the client speak to your team members unless it is required.
  • The scope statement should be thorough and well communicated to stakeholders.
  • Establish a robust change control system.
  • Encourage open communication within the team.
  • Monitor the project’s progress closely.

Gold Plating

Gold plating refers to adding the extra features that were not part of the product scope.

Usually, gold plating is performed by the project team at no additional cost to the client. They do it with good intentions and the client may appreciate it. However, it can backfire. Because you are adding new features to the product without the client’s approval. The client may consider this as an unauthorized change in the scope. They can refuse to accept the product.

Gold plating is very common in software industries.

Causes of Gold Plating

The following are a few causes of gold plating:

  • It is done to make the client happy.
  • Team members may add extra functions to prove their ability.
  • A project manager may add extra functions to earn credit.
  • Sometimes it is performed to divert attention from defects.

Gold plating may sound pleasing, but it is bad for the project. Gold plating can increase the cost and risk and delay the schedule. It increases the client’s expectations. Next time they will expect you to deliver more than agreed upon in the scope statement, and not doing so will make the client unhappy.


Suppose you are developing software for a client. A programmer comes to you and says she can add some extra features to the program with almost no effort. This will increase the product’s functionality and the client will like it. You agree and allow her to implement the change without any review.

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:

  • Never allow the team members to add any extra features to the product without approval.
  • As a project manager, just avoid it.
  • Establish open communication lines within the team.

You must monitor the scope baseline for any slippage. Control the communication and review every change request. Do not implement the change unless the concerned authority approves it. Avoiding scope creep and gold plating is easy if team members are disciplined and follow the ground rules.


Changes happen all the time in projects. These changes may or may not be desirable, but changes due to scope creep and gold plating fall under the “undesirable” category. Changes due to these practices are known as uncontrolled change and you must keep them from happening. Managing scope creep and gold plating is a key part of scope management.

Have you witnessed scope creep or gold plating in your project? Please share your experiences in the comments section so other professionals can learn from them.

This topic is vital from a PMP exam point of view. You can expect to see at least one or two questions in your exam on this topic.

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Speak Your Mind

  • If the customer ask for an additional feature and the team member add the feature without considering that it is out of scope. Is it goal plating?

      • When a customer asks for this addition without undergoing due process it becomes a scope creep. It is gold plating if a contractor or project team offered this addition without the client expecting it.

  • if you are assigned a project manager in newly established software company, how will you manage to resolve conflict?

  • Dear Fahad,

    I really enjoy your articles in this blog even after I passed the PMP exam. Thanks for your efforts again.

    Regarding the previous question in discussion section, in my opinion, the question did directly refer to neither Scope Creep nor Gold Plating. In case of any extra time or costs for removing additional features, it should be considered as a negative risk which already occurred (an issue) and for which an action plan (workaround plan) might be needed, not a gold plating or scope creep. There was no any further detailed indication in that question to apply only for Gold Plating or for Scope Creep since both are usually but not always adding extra costs and time to the project under uncontrolled scope management as indicated in that question. And he intended to direct you simply to choose either scope creep or gold plating by adding his tricky remark “Is the answer gold plating?”. His intention was not well made for these concepts for Gold Plating and Scope Creep in this blog discussion.

    If there were to be “an issue” instead of “corrective action” in the choice section of that question. the correct answer should be “an issue” since risks are normally considered as the events which are expected to occur in the future.



      • It doesn’t change the characteristics of negative risks of these features when they were added to the product since they were decided to be removed and it caused to add more costs and time to project for removing these features as workarounds required to deal with these features.

        These workarounds may need to write change requests with recommended corrective actions as stated in page 353 of PMBOK Guide 5th edition.

        Finally, you can’t just regard these features as only the scope creep or only the gold plating since both are all risks associated with poor scope management, which means it’s hard to distinguish one from another due to lack of information under the given situation of that question. It is not a scope creep because you have no idea to determine whether Frank adjusted costs, time or resources accordingly when he added features. It is not a gold plating either because you have no idea on Frank’s intention to do it. This question was not well made for these concepts of scope creep and gold plating for this blog discussion.

  • My take on the previous question is ‘Gold plating’…. Frank has been adding the features unilaterally and when the PM discovers new risks were arising the features will be removed without minding increase in cost and time.

  • What if PM has planned to give extra features as goldplating and in the meanwhile customes requests for the same features.
    What will this situation be called…goldplating or scope creep??

  • Very well explained !!
    The examples are very clear
    I did not know about the term Gold Plate now I know !!
    Thank You!

  • Fahed
    Actually the difference between gold planting and scope creep is very narrow ,so can we say when the customer is asking for doing any additional work and team is accepted to do without analysis it through the change control system we can consider it as scop creep while if any one from team member added any features from his side ( it was not asked by the customer ) to the product or the project can we consider it as gold plating ? I mean here the customer request is the main difference between the main2 cases
    Am i right ?


  • hi fahid,

    really it very good explain but sometims the question is not clear by saying that the team member made some changes but not mention if its approved or not so it is not clear scope creep … i confused for the b/m example :

    Frank is a project team member in your project. Frank has been adding changes to the software
    interface for the software that your project is creating. Because Frank has been adding these
    features new risks have entered into the project. You elect that these additions should be removed
    from the project even if it takes extra time and money to remove the features. What are these
    riskladen features called?
    Gold plating
    Scope creep
    Negative risks
    Corrective actions

    is the answer gold plating?

    thanks for your support


    • As per the question, Frank is adding features to the product, which means either it is scope creep or the gold plating.

      Now, if he is doing this to make client happy, it is gold plating.

      Or, if he is doing this due to some miss-understanding with the scope, or miss-communication, it would be scope creep.

      Since, the given question does not say that Frank is doing this to make client happy, I believe it should be a case of scope creep.

      • I am not agree with you Fahad. PM has asked him to remove these changes even though it is taking more time or cost, it means changes were certainly not part of the scope. Since, it was not part of the scope, it is an example of Gold Plating.

          • Hi Fahad,

            I would say that it is Gold plating

            For Scope Creep, changes done should be uncontrolled

            here, associate has been adding changes with no mention that Customer asked for it or he didnt understand the scope. So by underlying logic, he did that to add more features to the product and to make project manager or customer happy.

            All changes here seems intentional and controlled.

            Hope you agree

            • In gold plating intention is to make client happy, and in this question I did not see it.

              In scope creep, changes are uncontrolled. Moreover, in the question it is also not mentioned.

              • I would also say that this is gold plating. Gold plating are most often intended to make the clients “happy,” but that is not always the case.

                For one example, there are cases where team members may add features for risk mitigation purposes. Is the extra manhour adding cost? Yes. Is it out of the Scope? Yes. Is it intended to make the customer “happy?” Not necessary, it may have been added to avoid extra maintenance in contractor’s part or other possible reasons.

                Just leaving this out there after so many years, so that people reading this won’t be confused.

                Gold plating is not always associated with customer’s “happiness.”

      • if you are assigned a project manager in newly established software company, how will you manage to resolve conflict?

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