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I love that moment when we reach the midway point in a project. The project management team falls into a groove; the client begins to feel warm and fuzzy seeing the amazing progress from week to week. Overall, everyone is feeling excited to see the vision start to come to fruition. But then… it happens. The dreaded scope creep starts slinking its way into the website project, enveloping the team members, the client, and the timeline like the black plague.

As a Project Manager, I cringe at the thought of scope creep! However, as a former WebDevStudios client, I know I am guilty of it. I’ve learned I am not the exception to the rule on both accounts. So, here are a few things I’ve learned about scope creep and how you can manage it.

What is scope creep?

After a website project has started, and the scope of the project grows beyond the original plan, that is considered scope creep. This can happen for a number of different reasons. If a project’s requirements are not well defined and outlined at the start, new requirements are likely going to come up throughout the life cycle of the project. Similarly, a lack of transparency and poor communication during the project can result in additional work impacting the original scope.

A surprising reason for scope creep…

I have found that there is another reason why scope creep happens: excitement. Nothing can prepare our clients for the way their new website looks and how it functions. There is a big difference between the mock-up they approve during the design phase of the project, and the functioning site they see on our status calls. At the beginning of a project, it can be difficult for a client to imagine how things will turn out. Once they start seeing demos, they start to see the potential. With this potential, comes new requests and expectations—thus, scope creep.

Scope creep management

And there’s the rub. As a Project Manager, you don’t want to crush your clients’ dreams, but you have to manage timelines, budgets and expectations. Our goal, then, is to minimize the risk of scope creep throughout the website project. This starts even before the discovery phase. By sharing with our clients sites in our portfolio, they are able to envision what their site could also do. This empowers them to ask for certain functionality before the scope has been established. During our extensive discovery process, we are able to flesh out what the requirements are.

Accepting the reality of scope creep

Finally, it is as important to have a plan to deal with scope creep when it happens (since it is inevitable, like the common cold) as it is to have plans in place to minimize the risk in the first place. We cannot accommodate every new request or change that comes up during every website project for every client. What we can do is explain their options through change requests and appreciate where the client is coming from—a place of excitement.

What methods or strategies do you use to manage scope creep? Tell us your tips in the comments below.

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