Scope creep can easily transform a good project into a distressed one. What are the methods for minimizing continuous expansion of project requirements?

  • Is it just me, or did you answer your own question?
    – Drew
    Jul 26, 2016 at 10:53
  • 2
    @Drew that's perfectly fine.
    – Nathan
    Jul 26, 2016 at 10:54

6 Answers 6


I've been dealing a lot with a scope creep over the last 2 years. I created a list of things that is a must to keep in mind in order to minimize the negative impact on the project.

At first - you should realize that scope creep will happen!

You should:

  • know the requirements;
  • know the client's expectations;
  • have balls to say "No". Saying "Yes" to placate the customer can cause a sufficient scope creep. As a result - a good project might become a distressed project;
  • always question the necessity for the change. Make sure that there is a decent justification for a change. Define change control process in advance;
  • determine how the scope change will affect the schedule, cost and resources. See whether some of the milestone dates can or can't be shifted;
  • get user involvement early. A good idea might be to make customer research interviews before having an actual product;
  • know who has "signature authority". You should manage closely this kind of stakeholders;
  • avoid gold plating and perfectionism. Change your mindset from making everything "perfect" to "just enough";
  • be aware of penalty clauses for late delivery. By pushing through scope changes that will elongate the schedule, the PM could avoid penalty clauses.

Focus on customer value. Just because the client thinks of a new function doesn't mean the one you are writing right now has lost its value.

I try to follow these guidelines: - Slow down. Do not jump to the new scopy things. The original scope was analysed and considered carefully. The new scope probably just popped up. No way all the requirements and implications are known. Give the idea time to mature. While you work at the original scope. - Once you're out of 'jump-at-it' mode, capture the new scope in requirements, userstories, etcetera. - Check how it fits in and if your original scope already provides part of this new scope. And while you are at it; ask for a businesscase for the new scope. How is the client going to earn the money back?

Many ideas fail this stage as they are already possible, or are not really close enough to the hearth to actually write down the specs.

For ideas that survive, I still like to get the program running in Operation first. Check out 'minimal viable product'.

When your program is in actual operation, you will have meaningful discussions: Do we add on the things we thought of originally (original scope)? Or would you rather have us build that new idea first? Which idea adds the most value at this point?

When you do this right, the word 'scope creep' looses its meaning.


The best way to minimize scope creep is careful planning and a structured change management process. By having a clear project plan and schedule and not letting change uncontrolled from the very beginning, is the best way to avoid scope creep. You can make adjustments to the project plan, but you'll have to assess how it will affect your budget, schedule and scope. A must in every project is also to document the scope in a scope statement, this document will help you justify your measures to your client and serves as proof at the end of the project that you have fulfilled the requirements in the contract.


Firstly, you shouldn't try to minimize expanding requirements. Change will occur and should occur and there should be no pressure to inhibit that. What is needed is a change control process, one that can process change both prospectively and retroactively, the latter being used only minimally. Therefore, when requirements change or new ones are identified, you process the change quickly, incorporate the new scope into the project, get time and money, and keep working.

Change is good. It makes the product for the customer more valuable and, in the case for sellers, increases revenue.


In terms of acceptance criteria for change requests, the process needs to facilitate shared accountability and customer focus. For example:

The general wisdom for avoiding scope creep goes something like this:

  1. Require the scope change requester to complete a form, or otherwise formally describe the change.

  2. Log the form (like you do everything else).

  3. Determine the impact of the requested change.

  4. Review the change with the client / business owner / project team, and approve or reject the request.

  5. Update project documents and notify the team of any changes.

My trick is to basically move step 3 up as a component of step 1, and include a short questionnaire about the impact of the suggested change right there on the initial request form. I also ask for the change to be mapped — quantifiably, if possible — to one of the key metrics / business goals laid out in the project's business requirements.




Possible causes of scope creep and their indicators

Loosely defined projects - If the project is not properly defined along with its success, the team will not have anything to make their stand on.

Possible Indicators:

You keep getting references to other apps/sites - I feel that in most cases, "idea" is overrated. The majority of new-entrepreneurs are simply trying to create someone else's success. They will not have defined vision in their own head regarding what they are trying to achieve as a result they will always be diverging away from a track that they set out to achieve in the first place.

You get complained at - A LOT - They are just trying to re-create someone else's success and they will always find their achievement behind their expectations without actually knowing what they are trying to solve. They are just sensing an opportunity without properly defining the problem and success.

Possible solution - Have a good customer facing unit (does not necessarily have to a separate entity but a group that can include people working in different capacity). Agile encourages changes and discourages contracts but that does not mean you are obiliged to give someone a full-fledged machine learning-Financial health-assessment tool when they initially set out to achieve a financial log book. It will be the unit's responsibility to keep client focused and the goal should always be to have a defined projects. You may need good negotiations and organizational skills for this to achieve. However, if you have already made the mistake of not defining the project, try to correct it in whatever capacity you can as of now. In most cases trying to define the project after it has been developed over a significant period will be incapable of producing desired effects and it will probably be for the best for both parties to seek oppurtunities elsewhere.

Solution does not work for the problem - A lot of project managers sometimes rely heavily on the client for requirement. When someone comes in with a project idea they are presumably trying to fix a certain problem. There needs to be a requirement analysis and proper vision regarding how the team will approach the solution. It is unfair on the client's part for a team to expect solutions from the client and clearly this never comes good. It's like going to a doctor and the patient advising how he should approach the treatment. Broadly speaking say for eg. I want to build a software for my cafe. The problem is subjective and the statement has multiple meanings.

I could be trying to fix the problem with my employees and their payroll management OR

I could be trying to build a software that helps me optimize my inventory management OR

I could be trying to build a software that helps my customers place their orders online.

So the solutions, design and user experience will vary on what I am actually trying to achieve. How the results will be presented in a meaningful way could be completely different for any of the set mentioned above. So the requirement analysis has to be approached subjectively and conclusions properly defined to create a vision/directives that the team will follow. Obviously this goes without saying that it should be participative in nature, considering the most important aspects of keeping stakeholders happy and working team motivated.

Possible indicators:

You keep revisiting the same feature - Client knows that the solution does not work for the problem and keeps coming back with solution that they think might work but it actually does not.

A sort of a change-cycle repeats with every sprint - Client could unknowingly be trying to align you back to the solution that actually works for them.

Possible solution - Chances are, the client knows what his problem is and he knows the solution you provided does not address his or her core problem. They will try to come up with a solution which again may or may not work. To put things into perspective, say I am trying to track my finances, then I would probably want data visualisations with KPI's, the client may not even know what KPI is. As a solutions provider, it is upto us to actually propose ideas that can actually solve their problem. After all this is what innovation is all about. The team should at all times remain motivated to achieve success which needs to be defined. If the team understands the problem and if their solutions are aligned then both scope creep and scope change will not be expensive.

Properly define project and it's success. This is the most important thing, regardless of your organisation's philosophical bend, the organisation must have unified and unequivocal process of actually defining project and it's success criteria.

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