The 5 Major Causes of Scope Creep and How to Avoid Them

The 5 Major Causes of Scope Creep and How to Avoid Them 

“Can you give more design options, please.”

“The layout just doesn’t feel right.”

“We need to go back to the drawing board.”

Ever found yourself at the unfortunate end of such feedback during a website development project? Well, you’re not alone.

According to PMI, nearly 50% of projects experience scope creep — which greatly contributes to a project’s delay or failure.

Scope creep refers to the unrestricted expansion of a project, taking for granted key elements like budget, timelines, and resources.

Unsure whether you’re facing scope creep? Look for the obvious signs. These include unlimited revisions, unending project timelines, or over-exceeding budgets.

But what causes scope creep? Let’s look at these five factors and how you can overcome them.

5 Causes of Scope Creep and How to Avoid Them

early bird phenomenon

Sometimes, proactiveness leads a project to its doom.

Confused? Think about it.

You draft a project plan pulling out all the stops and deliver a masterful blueprint — only to realise it’s not working. This may be due to reasons, such as:

  • Incomplete information at your disposal
  • Inaccurate understanding of the client’s requirements

The result? You end up with a premature plan that requires constant revisiting.

The Antidote: Feasibility analysis

Opt for conducting a feasibility analysis, as recommended by Jennifer Bridges. The idea is to address key areas such as what needs to be done, when, why, how, etc.:

Then, you need to create a Feasibility Report that comprises nine sections, namely:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Description of product/service
  3. Technology considerations
  4. Product/service marketplace
  5. Marketing strategy
  6. Organisation/staffing
  7. Schedule
  8. Financial projections
  9. Findings and recommendations

It is important to make a report that’s objective, consistent, and honest. Use this report to make a go/no-go decision along with all stakeholders involved.

2.  Vague proposals and scope of work that leave  too much room for confusion 

If you want to deliver your clients’ exact requests, leave no room for vagueness. Don’t present a half-baked project plan. It’ll only lead both parties to confusion.

The Antidote: Combining the triple whammy

Here’s an easy-to-remember formula for you:

List of Deliverables + Number of Revisions + Project Timetable = A Fool-Proof Project Plan

Let’s look at a vague example:  “With this budget, you will get website design options.”

Next, let’s look at the modified example that’s specific and crystal-clear: “With this budget, you will get four website design options and four revisions, three weeks after the content is approved. Any additional revisions (w.r.t copy or design) that are done post this will lead to INR 5,000 fee per revision.”

  • Project requirements that effectively tie back to the business and project objectives (from the agency’s point-of-view)
  • Client’s needs
  • Resource and budget allocation
  • Individually-defined roles
  • List of deliverables segregated based on priority and complexity
  • The exact due date
  • The length of time given to the client to review the project
  • Total number of iterations (e.g.  four rounds of revisions)

Handy tip: You can use Gantt Charts to view the latest developments and timelines. Gantt charts can be made using several platforms, including Excel, PowerPoint, or Word.

Here’s a helpful how-to in creating Gantt Charts in Excel:

Key takeaway: Documenting everything in the written format can bridge the gap between client expectations and overworking on the agency’s part. The idea is to ensure clients know exactly what to expect, at what cost, and by when.

3. A clear disconnect between client and the agency

Oftentimes, clients end up making additional requests for work mid-way through the project. Not only does the budget overshoot because of this. The team also ends up overwhelmed, not to mention, overworked.

The Antidote: Involve your clients from the start

The solution is simple. Before you even begin to draft the project scope, include the client in the project planning process so they can air out their needs and concerns from the beginning.

Brainstorm and go over the requirements together so that you don’t end up getting “special requests” or “additional requirements” when most of the work is done.

4. Absence of resource and asset tracking 

Image Source

It doesn’t take a genius to know that poor project planning can lead to delays and scope creep.

In such a case, using a tool such as the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix can help in effectively defining roles and responsibilities.

Additionally, it is important to draft questionnaires and meet clients in person to comprehend the client’s feedback clearly. Failure to do so can lead your work down the drain.

The Antidote: Track your assets like a hawk

If you think you can run away from the hard work, be ready to pay through your nose. The truth is that in order to keep projects on track, you need to keep constant tabs on your resources, budget, and timelines, among others.

If you don’t know where to begin, start by asking yourself these questions during the process:

  1. Are you unable to cope with the project timelines?
  2. Are specific tasks proving to be more challenging and time-consuming than anticipated?
  3. Are your employees working on different tasks other than the ones mentioned in the project plan?
  4. Are you unable to understand the client’s feedback and incorporate it into the work?

Key Takeaway: Constant self-reflection and project tracking can prevent scope creep and keep you on track to deliver projects on or even before time!

5. Over-delivering and gold plating

We get it. Every business wants to impress their clients. There are many ways to do so, but over-delivering and constantly fine-tuning your work are not one of them.

While it may make the client happy, this small detour can dearly cost your company in several aspects. Plus, you could miss out on deadlines or leave out crucial requirements in a hurry to give more.

The Antidote: Stick to the agreed plan and focus on quality

The best solution to this problem is to stick to the agreed project scope. Focus all your energy on delivering qualitative solutions.

For web designers, you may provide clients with two great designs (one minimal and one animated in nature) instead of delivering five mediocre, traditional versions.

For web development, it’s really not about quantity as much as it is about quality. Here’s an eye-opening case study worth considering:

Did you know, the Denver International Airport (DIA) opened 16 months late, at a whopping $4.8 billion (instead of $2 billion). That’s not all. Denver ended up paying $1.1 million per day during the delay. The reasons for this disaster? Surprise, surprise. Inevitable and undocumented scope creep that arose due to 2,100 design changes being demanded by the United Airlines!

Look out for yourself

Make sure to identify scope creep before it happens — and that you’re not the one extending the scope as well. Most of all, respect yourself and the hard work you give. At the end of the day, you’ll need it to keep your work at par and your sanity intact.

Ready to offer your services online? Get started with Sitebeat today.

Want to keep your projects in check? Use a Creative Brief.

Download the free PDF here.


Free Template: Website Creative Brief