Scope creep

Scope Creep: What it is and how to prevent it

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Scope Creep is a widespread problem in project management, and that’s especially the case when it comes to advertising agencies. This, together with Overservicing, is a major issue for the creative industry.  It can cause delays, budget overruns, and even project failure. But with careful planning and communication, you can keep it under control and ensure your project is completed on time and within budget. In this article, we will discuss how to prevent Scope Creep from happening in the first place, and how to deal with it if it does occur.

What is Scope Creep and how can it impact your project?

Scope is one of the six constraints that project managers need to manage. The others are budget, time, quality, risk, and resources. The project manager’s job is to balance these effectively to ensure that a project runs smoothly. Projects often run into problems when the scope of the work changes, but the other constraints (e.g., the budget and/or timeline) remain the same. This is known as Scope Creep and can be a major issue if not managed properly.

The big issue for ad-agencies is that most of their projects are ‘fixed price’ and fixed deadline. That means that the budget and time constraints are fixed. In those circumstances, Scope Creep results in unprofitable projects/clients and overworked staff who are regularly expected to work long hours to meet the deadlines.

Causes of Scope Creep

There are many causes of Scope Creep, such as changes in technology, new regulations, unanticipated external factors, etc. However, by far the most common cause for scope creep is a change in the client’s requirements. The reasons for this are:

  • The original scope of the project was vague or all-encompassing. The client was then able to leverage that by introducing requirements that could be interpreted as being in scope.
  • The client ignores the scope and requests changes in any case
  • The project team wants to overservice the client and will do extra work not requested
  • They are unaware of the scope. For example, because it is not stored in a purpose-built project management system.
  • Staff is afraid of upsetting the client and doing out of scope work

We understand that defining a scope for a creative project is a challenge because the scope evolves during the project. That is why we explained that the typically used “Waterfall” project management methodology is not appropriate for the ad-industry.

It’s important to be aware of these potential changes from the start, and to build some flexibility into the project plan.

How to prevent Scope Creep from happening

One way to prevent Scope Creep is to have a clear and concise project scope. Make sure all project stakeholders review and approve the project scope before work begins. That includes the client and the agency team. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is no confusion about what needs to be done. The scope should also clearly detail the change order process if the client wants to change the scope. If nothing else, this makes it clear that changes to the scope will be chargeable.

The scope should be kept available to all the stakeholders for the duration of the project. This should be on a shared project management platform.

The project manager must plan regular sessions to review the plan against the scope with the client and other key stakeholders.

Dealing with Scope Creep if it does occur

If Scope Creep does occur, it’s important to deal with it quickly. The first step is to identify the cause of the scope creep and then develop a plan to address it. This will involve changing the project scope, budget, or timeline. It will be a lot easier to change these if the change process has already been defined as we recommend above.

It’s important to get approval from all stakeholders before making any changes to avoid further scope creep.

You need to give to make sure that the team knows what to do to prevent Scope Creep and how to deal with it.

Finally, make sure that you include the reasons for the scope creep in the “lessons learned” session/documentation at the end of the project.

In conclusion, Scope Creep can be a major issue in project management for advertising agencies, but with careful planning and communication, it can be prevented. By having:

  • A clear and concise project scope communicated and agreed with all stakeholders
  • A proper project management system to maintain the scope and track any changes
  • A change order process
  • Building in flexibility into plans and using more agile methodologies

That will help ensure your project is completed on time and within budget.

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