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