Time tracking

What is Project Scope Creep?

Understanding project scope and its key role in project management can significantly help small businesses. Effective scope management ensures small businesses run efficiently and profitably. However, if you find your business is suffering from scope creep, you could be at risk of losing money and damaging your business’ bottom line.

A proper scope management plan can help you to manage and avoid scope creep. Find out more about scope management for small businesses below.

What is Scope in Project Management?

Simply put, the scope defines the work required in a project. Scope in project management may refer to:

  1. Product Scope: The functions and features that make up a product or service
  2. Project Scope: The work that must be completed to deliver a product.

When Project Management Professionals (PMP) and key stakeholders talk about scope, they are most likely referring to project scope, or more specifically a project scope statement.

A project scope statement is created at the beginning of a project, generating a clearly defined outline of all aspects of a project’s lifecycle, including:

  • Activities
  • Resources
  • Timelines
  • Deliverables
  • Project boundaries

This statement will also commonly include details like the team involved, key stakeholders, processes, constraints, and what is and isn’t included. This essential information is written down and agreed to by business owners, shareholders, and project managers before every project commences. This developed document is often referred back to as the project progresses to ensure all objectives are being met within the set boundaries.

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep is a project management term for how a project’s requirements can increase over its lifecycle, resulting in additional work that was not initially planned into the project scope statement.

Scope creep is very common as projects develop- customers’ needs change, or key stakeholders reconsider their views. It can also be caused by internal miscommunication, disagreements, or a variety of unforeseen circumstances. That’s why PMPs often plan for changing scope, allocating additional time or resources into the scope statement so that projects don’t overrun or overspend if scope changes occur.

This methodology can also help business owners direct their companies and account for future setbacks, opportunities, and growth. Understanding how scope creep occurs and the ways it can be mitigated can help small businesses optimally plan for the future.

Common Causes of Scope Creep

Some of the common causes of scope creep include:

  • Lack of clarity in the original project plan and scope statement.
  • Overpromising on the deliverables within the timeframe.
  • Poor estimation of the timeline and requirements at the beginning of the project.
  • Not prioritizing tasks from the outset, so that the key areas are completed first and less essential areas can be descoped or scaled back if needed.
  • Direct contact between the client and project team – instead of communicating through a project manager who can control expectations and requests for additional work.
  • Poor communication between project members, and the manager.
  • Clients asking for additional ad-hoc work out of scope.
  • Additional rounds of amends that were not included in the scope of work.
  • A lack of change control process set in place, whereby any change requests to the project are submitted, reviewed, and agreed upon by the appropriate parties before change is enacted.

These are just some examples of a changing scope, but every industry and project will encounter different ways scope can creep beyond the scope baseline, and learn to plan for and adapt to them.

How to Avoid Scope Creep in Project Management

It is next to impossible to completely circumvent scope creep on a project. Inevitably some objectives, resources, and teams will adapt and change as it progresses. However, if managed effectively and planned for from the outset, a change to the overall scope doesn’t have to become a big issue.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid or mitigate scope creep.

Create a scope management plan

One of the most effective ways to manage scope creep is by creating a scope management plan. The scope management plan is a section of the overall project management plan which explains how the scope will be defined, controlled, and monitored throughout the project. A scope management plan should contain the following sections:

  1. Requirements: Clearly defines all project requirements including processes and procedures, resources and the budget, schedules, and objectives
  2. Project Stakeholders: List all those invested in the company and relevant project
  3. Scope Statement: Outlines the entire project from start to finish
  4. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): Depicts the workflow and phases of the project
  5. WBS Dictionary: Defines all terms, positions, and concepts used in the WBS document
  6. Roles and Responsibilities: Details all contracts of the project’s team members
  7. Deliverables: Lists all objectives and actionables required
  8. Sponsor Acceptance: Identifies individuals who have sponsored the project, and who are responsible for approving the final product
  9. Scope Control: Determines all processes that can be used to control the outcome of the project, including any possible setbacks or opportunities, detailing how new requests and change control is dealt with

Connect with routine team huddles

Keep your team on track to the projected project schedule and in the loop with regular team huddles. Scheduled informal catch-ups, like an agile scrum, create a sense of collaboration and give everyone in the team the opportunity to raise issues or difficulties with their colleagues in order to discuss and overcome hurdles together. It also helps you as a manager to spot scope creep as soon as it starts to happen and take steps to mitigate against it.

Have processes in place to track project progression

No matter how well planned and thought out your original scope is, without a process to keep track of progress, it’s all too easy for team members to lose sight of the end goal and get bogged down in the small details. The importance of time management and project management software for managers and employees can’t be overstated.

Time tracking software is an easy way to track project progression and prevent scope creep from becoming an issue on projects big and small. With QuickBooks Time, project managers have a full overview of each project from start to finish. Team members’ time is allocated down to the hour, so it’s easy to manage workload efficiently and accurately.

Team leaders can view time spent on projects by month, day, team, tasks and even employee, with simple data visualizations to help you get the information you need quickly and easily. Using the right monitoring and tracking tools can help with managing scope creep. Implement QuickBooks Time in your business to help you manage your employees, budget, and tasks ahead.

Related Articles

Looking for something else?

Get QuickBooks

Smart features made for your business. We've got you covered.

Firm of the Future

Expert advice and resources for today’s accounting professionals.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.