Stay on target: 5 ways to prevent project scope creep

Properly managing project scope is integral to success. Even the best laid plans can succumb to what is known as scope creep. Whether a freelancer or agency professional, almost every project manager has experienced a project that grows out of control, beyond their forecasted estimates. This can be the result of a number of variables. Clients or supervisors may want multiple additions or revisions, workflow may reach a bottleneck, disaster may strike; the list is endless. However, the result is always the same: more wasted time and resources. While we may not be able to expect the unexpected, the following are some effective ways to stay on task and properly manage even the largest projects.

Understand the goal

Understanding the goal of a project is very simple, but vital. This is where details really matter. It’s easy for a client to say they’d like to increase sales. This leaves a lot of room to interpretation, and invites the possibility of project scope creep at any point of the process. Instead, ask how much of an increase in sales they expect from the project. What sort of a time frame do they have in mind? What are their strongest qualities and what are their weakest qualities? The more questions that are asked, and the more details that are given, the more focused and precise a project can operate.

Anticipate project requirements

Whether working as a team or as an individual, tasks must be delegated appropriately. Work takes time, and time is a very valuable resource for a project. Scheduling extensive or comprehensive tasks before getting started is a great way to maintain a streamlined workflow. Furthermore, it’s helpful in preventing a workflow bottleneck. Sometimes work can’t continue or start without the completion or approval of a different task, this is important to keep in mind while organizing a schedule.

Be Dynamic

Similar to the previous two points, being dynamic is all about staying proactive and realistic with your client. If an aspect of a project seems like it is too much to handle or can spiral out of control, speak up. Two heads are better than one, and both sides are integral in the planning stages of a project. It’s best to offer a constructive suggestion and use your knowledge as a professional to reach a mutually beneficial solution, rather than keeping your head down and toughing it out until it’s too late.

Measure progress

Which parts of the project are priorities? What are the milestones? How are you measuring your progress? Keeping an eye on the rate of progress is effective in keeping up morale and concentrating on project completion. This allows you to identify what is working and what is not. Additionally, it’s extremely useful in revealing the presence of creep. Putting in the same amount of work and progress is slowing down? This means it’s to start looking for sources of scope creep. There is a lot of helpful online project management software available out there to measure progress and keep everyone on the same page.

Make room for scope creep

While it is great to keep workflow running like a fine-tuned machine, flexibility is important as well. Scope creep is often unavoidable and unexpected when it enters the equation. Taking 30 days to complete a project that will need at least 30 days leaves little room for error. In that regard, staying realistic and giving adequate room to work with is best at the planning stages. Similarly, limiting the amount of people who control scope to the absolute minimum can consolidate the vision and expectations of a project.

We can help you manage your project efficiently and effectively. Data, HR and AP managers are encouraged to attend our webinar on April 19th to learn more.