scope creep

Before heading into details regarding scope creep, let’s understand the scope.

The work necessary to finish the project is referred to as the scope in project management.

The majority of projects undergo some kind of alteration at some time. These adjustments may be advantageous for the project, but unauthorized changes that go beyond its parameters are damaging and may compromise its goals. It may result in resource waste, decreased efficinecy, subpar products, or even the early failure of the project.

What Is Scope Creep?

Definition: Scope creep means extending a project's requirements beyond its set boundaries that lead to unauthorized changes in the project scope. It is the addition of unauthorized features to the product beyond its agreed scope. 

Occasionally, scope creep is referred to as “requirement creep” or “feature creep.”

The key term here is “unauthorized changes.” Thus, scope creep does not occur when a change is implemented after going through the change management process.

Since the project environment is dynamic and communication is frequent, controlling scope creep can be difficult. Project managers must therefore grasp the specifics of scope creep and then manage them. 

How To Identify Project Scope Creep?

The following points can help reduce scope creep in a project:

Being Conscious of Impulsively Bright Ideas

Scope creep might result from an idea that emerges in the middle of a project. To prevent scope creep, you must review them with objectivity and without emotion.

Watch out for the “also’s,” yeah, when team members and stakeholders begin to use this frequently. These proposals can include things such as, “We could do this or that.” They strongly imply an impromptu addition to the project flow.

What Causes Scope Creep?

Scope creep in projects occurs due to several reasons:

Unclear Scope and Requirements

Unclear scope requirements are the main cause of scope creep. It confuses, and each member will assume the project scope from their view leading to non-unanimous project decisions.

You must have a well-defined written scope of work for the project team to refer to.

Poor Communication

Scope creep can result from improper communication between project managers, stakeholders, and team members.

Due to team members not receiving clarification on their conflicting project ideas, ineffective communication lowers the quality of project outputs. 

Setting Unrealistic Deadlines

Project managers often face the temptation of promising heaven and earth to their clients. And to achieve the goal, they force the team to cross boundaries. Unrealistic deadlines demotivate team members and lead to scope creep.

Underestimation of a Proposed Change

Project stakeholders may not want to be fully involved in every tiny bit of the project; this allows team members to make certain decisions that may bypass the formal change request and lead to scope creep.

Over Promising

You must communicate what can be done within the scope of work instead of impressing clients with false promises. This stresses team members and forces them to work extra. It is a known fact that fatigue leads to inefficient and ineffective results.

Not Performing Proper Project Analysis Upfront

Project managers frequently rush into initiating new projects without thoroughly assessing the work’s requirements. In the later stages of the project, this led to poor planning and numerous problems, including scope creep.

How To Prevent Scope Creep?

The following tips help prevent scope creep from occurring.

Develop Well Defined Project Scope

The key step in preventing scope creep is to have proper project documentation from project initiation. This allows for referring and reviewing the project requirements when required and monitoring the project’s progress.

Conduct Proper Research

It is important to research adequately before the commencement of work. A project manager must think thoroughly and ask all the questions to avoid making mistakes or overlooking important areas.

Establish Communication

Maintain open lines of communication with clients, management, team members, stakeholders, and project managers, among others.

Close the information gap and make sure there is no communication breakdown. The project scope statement can aid in facilitating open dialogue among project stakeholders on changes and new information.

 A Flexible Change Control Process

The change control process should be flexible to accommodate change requests. These changes may affect the project baselines (scope, schedule, and cost). In such instances, you will need to update project documents, plans, scope statements, work breakdown structures, etc., and inform project stakeholders.

Manage these change requests through either corrective or preventive measures via an integrated change management system.

Use a Modern Project Management Software

Project scope creep is reduced with the aid of the project management tool. Effective monitoring and performance measurement of the project’s status and scope baselines throughout the project lifecycle is used to achieve this.

These programs also aid in tracking the project’s progress by comparing it to the projected progress.

The software might include a change request mechanism that would simplify updating, documenting, and informing team members on the project’s scope. 

Scope Creep Examples

Some examples of scope creep are discussed below:

Example 1: The 9 years Late New Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

The airport in New Berlin finally opened in 2020, nine years after it had originally been scheduled to do so, with few travelers and a small ceremony.

After 15 years of planning, the project commenced in 2006 with an expected completion date of October 2011. However, a number of technical and planning concerns caused the launch to be postponed six times, which was disastrous.

It is believed that the problems were caused by having many stakeholders with conflicting project ideas, which slowed the project’s progress, propelling the project’s status into becoming a national joke.

The project cost increased to three times its original budget, a whopping 6 billion euros.

Example 2: The Knight Capital Global Financial Service Firm

High-frequency trading algorithms were used by this company to trade security services. In 2012, the business suffered from scope creep, which cost them 460 million dollars in a single hour.

This happened as a result of an engineer forgetting to upgrade a computer server. Because there was just one month to make the necessary improvements, this error occurred. The project team rushed the work; as a result, incurring a considerable loss. Allocating proper time could have avoided this loss. 

Managing Scope Creep

Best scope management practices include:

Keep the Communication Lines Open

Project management is dependent on communication. Set up the channels of communication between team members, managers, and project stakeholders appropriately. This will make it easier to notice little changes and act promptly.

Analyze the Impact of Scope Creep

The project manager must assess the effects of scope creep on the project’s goals.

Analyze whether the impact is beneficial or negative, which project objectives it affects, whether the baselines are impacted, etc. Can you control scope creep, or will you need to submit a change request to fix it?

Set Priorities

After answering the questions in the previous step, it is important to set priorities. Emphasize new scopes to include in the project, but it should not be at the expense of the project goal.

Accept the Scope Creep

Since positive scope creeps exist, you must accept them after giving them proper consideration. To prevent delays, this acceptance should be completed swiftly and precisely.

Learn from the Projects Scope Creep

“Experience is a good teacher,” and scope creep provides a good lesson learned. After effectively managing a scope creep, learn from the mistakes that led to the scope creep to avoid a repeat in future projects.


A project’s scope creep is a dreaded occurrence. Miscommunication or imprecise scope requirements are the main causes of it.

A project manager and team can avoid scope creep by following the proper management and preventive procedures. Once it is known that scope creep will inevitably occur in a project, it should be discussed with the stakeholders, and if it is advantageous to the project, they may be invited to participate.