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3 Tips To Eliminate Scope Creep In Your Client Projects

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According to statistics, 43% of all projects are late, over budget, or are delivered with less than the original requirements. Thirty-nine percent of all projects succeed, and 18% completely fail. Projects usually fail due to lack of planning and breakdowns. A large number of unplanned breakdowns come from scope creep.

Scope creep is frustrating when your client doesn’t understand the additional costs and time required to implement their new requests. Some scope creeps are small enough to handle without bringing it up to the client, but sometimes they’re enormous. A significant increase in scope can postpone a project’s lifecycle, causing unnecessary distrust from the client.

The goal of any project is a happy client, so here’s how to handle scope creep to mitigate the risks of an incomplete project and an unhappy client.

1. Plan how you’ll handle scope management

Many businesses fail to define how they’ll manage the scope of their projects ahead of time, and that’s a huge mistake. You need a plan for defining, developing, monitoring, controlling, and verifying the scope of every project. You need a plan for dealing with scope creep and changes, including an escalation path in case there’s a disagreement. That’s the job of your project manager.

If your project manager isn’t accustomed to planning scope management, consider getting them the training that will provide them with that ability. The gold standard is Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI.

If you’ve got a PMP certified project manager, you’ve got an expert in scope management. According to, the project scope management part of PMP training trains project managers to “ensure that the project contains all the work and only the work necessary, to fulfill project objectives successfully.” The training teaches how to define, develop, monitor, control, and verify the scope of a project. Most importantly, it teaches how to develop a process to define how requested changes to the scope will be processed.

If you’ve never considered creating a plan for managing the ever-expanding and contracting scope of your projects, jump on it. It will save so much time, frustration, and money.

2. Provide each client with examples of what will change the scope

It may be impossible to eliminate scope creep completely, but you can lay the foundation for a clear conversation and resolution when it happens. In the beginning, provide your clients with specific examples of what would change the scope of their project. Give them examples related to their project so they can understand.

For instance, if you’re a videographer, explain to your clients how a simple change in location can increase the cost of the project. Explain that when you’re hired to shoot an outdoor event, you don’t need much lighting equipment. However, if they want to change the location to indoors, you’ll need plenty of lighting equipment. If you don’t own it, you’ll need to rent it, and that cost will be passed to the client. It could cost an extra $1,000 or more, depending on the project specs.

Give your clients real examples of common scope creeps ahead of time so they aren’t shocked when you have to tell them their new request will cost more.


3. Explain how a change in scope affects your team and the project

From your perspective, when you tell a client their newest set of requests will increase the scope of the project, you’re thinking about how much work you have to scrap and how long it will take to rebuild the foundation. To the client, it’s just a phrase until you explain it to them.

A client only knows what they want and are relying on you to figure out how to deliver it. For instance, say you’re a website developer and you’ve built a client’s website in ASP, but a month later they want a WordPress website. WordPress is written in a different language – PHP – and unless you use a preexisting template, you’ll need to start from scratch. The only part of the project you can transfer without too much extra work is the design.

Explaining how a change in scope will affect their project gives clients the opportunity to stick with the original plan if they’re on a budget, or move forward if they can afford the changes.

Clarity is the antidote to scope creep

Some scope creeps are the result of unclear communication. It’s important to extract as much clarity from clients as possible regarding their desired outcome. For example, when they tell you they want a website, what they really mean is they want to increase ecommerce sales by 30% through redesigning the user interface.

Most scope creeps can be avoided by getting clear on the desired outcome from the start.