Almost every contractor encounters scope creep at some point in their career. In fact, many professionals experience it without ever realizing it. So, what is scope creep? It’s the continual, unplanned-for expansion of boundaries, schedules, and deliverables that often happens over the course of a project. In this article, you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of scope creep and effectively communicate with homeowners so you can mitigate its impact on your business and ensure customer satisfaction.
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What Is Scope Creep?
In project management, scope refers to a job’s overall parameters, which include its deliverables, schedules, and boundaries. But whether you’re renovating a home kitchen or reroofing an industrial complex, these requirements sometimes increase in scope once the planning stage is over, slowly turning one deliverable into several. When a project grows in size and scope while the timelines and budgets don’t, it’s referred to as scope creep, and it can happen in varying degrees depending on the type of project involved. Moreover, this common contracting problem often occurs so subtly you don’t even know it’s happening.
What Causes Scope Creep?
Because this expansion of a project can be so insidious, it’s important not only to understand what scope creep is but to recognize what causes it. The underlying causes of scope creep are varied and may include the following:
- A client’s changing needs or last-minute feedback: As a project progresses, it’s not unusual for a client to request changes or provide additional information or feedback that can alter the requirements of a project, causing scope creep.
- Miscommunication or misunderstandings: Miscommunication or a lack of communication altogether can cause misunderstandings between parties, which has the potential to affect the scope of a project. This can occur due to poor communication between workers, between the project manager and their team, between the customer and the contractor, or between multiple parties that represent the client.
- Uncovering underlying problems: Hidden problems discovered after the planning phase can significantly alter the scope of work.
- Weak project leadership: Weak leadership can erode customer trust and may result in inefficient work, leading to scope creep.
- Poorly defined project plans: Without the clarity delivered by a clearly defined plan, scope creep may begin early and continue for the duration of the project.
What Makes Scope Creep Problematic?
Although scope creep, by definition, is a subtle process, it can have significant consequences for your business and your customers. By subtly altering the course of a project, scope creep can result in the following problems:
- Project delays
- Unauthorized changes
- Budget overspending
- Having to do work yourself
- Delays to future projects
- Reduced customer satisfaction
- Roadblocks that leave no path forward under time and budget constraints
- Overall project failure
How To Identify Scope Creep
Unfortunately, understanding what scope creep is isn’t enough. In order to be able to properly address this issue with your customers, you must first be able to identify when it’s happening. Thankfully, the warning signs of scope creep are easy to spot:
- Missed deadlines
- Disagreements between project stakeholders
- Poor client engagement during planning phases
- Problematic phrases such as “It would be great if…” or “How about if we…”
- Team members adopting side projects or making decisions without consulting the team
- Multiple parties offering input on the client’s behalf
How Do You Handle Scope Creep?
How you handle scope creep will likely depend on the potential level of impact it has on the project’s timeline and costs. Here are several ways to manage scope creep and mitigate its effects on a project:
- Keep track of deliverables: By consistently maintaining and updating a detailed list of deliverables, you can easily see changes that occur in the scope of the project.
- Reassess regularly: By monitoring the progress of a project, including changes in requirements and updated schedules, you can watch for scope creep and revise timelines and estimates accordingly so the customer is never surprised by unforeseen delays or charges. Reassessing regularly can also help you determine the need for preventive or corrective changes to the formal scope plan.
- Educate your customers: Most customers don’t know what scope creep is. Often, they don’t realize that even small changes to a project can result in significant delays and increased costs. By educating your customer on the importance of making decisions and the consequences of changing them, you can often prevent the spur-of-the-moment changes that lead to scope creep.
- Document changes: When changes to a project must occur, they don’t necessarily have to result in scope creep. Changes should be documented formally and incorporated into your overall plan so timelines and estimates can be revised accordingly.
- Use project management software: Specialized project management software can be a great tool for keeping track of project scope and any changes that occur.
- Communicate clearly, effectively, and often: Always be honest and transparent with your customers. As you see the scope of a project changing, discuss it right away to avoid the potential for difficult conversations later on.
It’s also important to remember that some scope creep may be inevitable as a project evolves organically, and it can ultimately result in a project that truly meets your client’s needs.
Bringing In The Right Customers
When you work hard to build best practices, minimize scope creep, and deliver exceptional customer service, you want the right clients to market your services to. Through CraftJack’s lead generation and reputation management services, you’ll get the help you need to build your online reputation and get local, quality leads in real time so you can start winning jobs today.