5 Ways to Manage Scope Creep in Your Project

Is your project slowly but surely getting out of control? Are stakeholders asking for more and more as the days go on? If you’re a project manager, you’ve suffered from it – scope creep. Scope creep is a problem in any industry – pharmaceutical included. In part, this is because many companies haven’t even been able to define scope to begin with – unless a project is cookie cutter. There are so many unknowns that it can be hard to judge the full scope ahead of time. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to manage scope creep. Here are the five most helpful techniques.

Method #1: Perform a Separate Requirements Gathering

This technique focuses on a development-side examination of the needs of the project. Rather than being what the project sponsor wants, it assesses what realistically can be done. It does this with a particular emphasis on how to create the best output with the budget allowed. This doesn’t mean that a low bar should be set or that the project team can’t go the extra mile if there is still time and budget left once all basic requirements are met. A result that exceeds expectations tends to impress clients!

Method #2: Minimize Client-Directed Scope Creep

In many cases, individuals involved with a process or project will respond with ideas about how they would improve it. Many of these ideas are good ones. But that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to change the scope of the product and include them.

Instead, develop and have the client sign off on a good scope of the work, with clearly defined limits about where and when changes will stop. Providing this – along with impact statements and regular updates – will provide the client with confidence. It will reassure them that the end result is one they’ll like. As long as they’re satisfied, they won’t be too focused on demanding changes.

Method #3: Clarify Value

Things that are appropriate in one project – say, improving a late stage development operating model – aren’t necessarily appropriate for other projects. Minor changes are one thing, but you should always avoid major changes in the project unless they’re necessary.

Instead, develop a clear set of goals and have the client sign off on them. If a change does not advance the goals (one of which should always be ‘completing the project on time and without exceeding its budget’), push back and reject the request.

Method #4: Require Full Reassessments For Significant Changes

This is a way of discouraging clients from asking for major changes. A full reassessment starts the entire examination process from the beginning. It also works to create a new development plan that integrates a major change. This can include necessary changes to the schedule and budget. Making the assessment should provide an automatic extension to your deadline for completing the project.

When clients know that even asking for a big change could put things behind the schedule they wanted, they’re much less likely to do so.

Method #5: Allow Extra Time

In general, clients should not be told how long it actually takes to get the job done. This may seem a bit sneaky at first. However giving them a longer timetable than you need provides two major benefits.

First, it will impress them if you can get the job done faster than they expected. It’s easier to overcome a low bar than a high one, and many clients don’t know how long something should take. They rely on your estimates.

Second, if scope-related delays happen, having extra time makes it easier to get the project done by the original deadline. Essentially, you’re betting that something will go wrong and allocating extra time to be sure you can deal with it.

Project management is hard enough without having to deal with all the issues in keeping the scope from moving around all over the place. With these five management techniques, you can avoid the worst effects of scope creep and help ensure the success of every project you manage.

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