In Defense of Scope Creep

by Hal Helms

33 Reader Comments

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  1. This is fundamentally flawed. Inasmuch as change is a constant, creeping features are a fact of life. But embracing them as described results in a useful project that is years late (as opposed to a useless one delivered right on time).

    The correct way to handle alterations of scope is to reflect the change in your deadlines and costs. “We can give you new feature Foo if you want it, but it will take an additional X days and Y dollars—but if Z-Corp thinks it’s worth it, we can make it happen.”

    Don’t pander to their whims. Be open to change, but be honest about what impact their changes are having on the project—after all, they (the company employee[s]) is/are responsible for this project’s success to their manager, president, CEO, or Wall Street.

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  2. I’m paraphrasing: If the clients knew what they wanted, would they need us?

    Sure. I might know what I want in a house, but I’m not gonna build the thing. The hardest part of scope creep is getting clients to pay for it, and we (where I work) haven’t gotten that down yet, either.

    The biggest rub seems to be flat-rate bidding vs. hourly. We say we will design a site for X amount of loot and it will include Y features. As we proceed, the scope creep kicks in and next thing you know, we might as well work for free. We’ve tried getting a grip on this by using change orders, but it’s not a perfect solution.

    My thought is, if we’re going to bid a flat rate, it should be high enough to cover scope creep. Bidding jobs at an hourly rate seems to freak out the client, so we rarely use that approach.

    When I was a photographer, even if I did bid the job at an hourly rate I pretty much summed up what the project would cost—how much time, film, etc., so the client knew what to expect. Even so, there were always those clients who wanted to push it. “Say, while you’re at it, could you shoot this and this and this?” As if the extra time and material meant nothing. My pat response was, “Sure, but it will cost this much extra.” Sometimes they said OK, sometimes not, but at least we knew where we stood: No free scope creep.

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  3. This forum sucks ass

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  4. yes it does suck ass!

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  5. Kevin just ran out of the room His mom called

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  6. This forum is like writing notes on a napkin and passing it around a table. It’s a mess, and someone needs to spill a drink on it quick.

    Oh, is there any reason this article isn’t in the list of previous articles?

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  7. Hey…

    “Anonymous”, “Irritated beyond belief” and the like…

    Okay, great—we hear you think it sucks.

    We hear you think it’s a drink napkin.

    We hear you have tons of negativity.

    Great, now shut it or mention something constructive.

    What will make the “list” better? What would you like to see diff about it?

    Not my place to point this out, so I’ll move on BUT what’s your problem anyway?!

    You don’t like the list—LEAVE!

    _ D.

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  8. My apologies to the rest of the “List’ers” and to Zeldman and et. al.

    Silly me to get drawn into their “attention-grabbing” tricks.

    Love the site, love the work, love the thoughts and glad it is here!

    _ D.

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  9. …this lightbulb is best changed using Right Hand 4.7 and stepladder 1200 × 600…

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  10. I guess I missed this month-old article. Ah, well… if anyone’s reading…

    I agree with Frank Siraguso and Corporate Slave as to how to handle fixed-price bids and scope creep. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned – which may be due to general client unwillingness to accept such a thing – is a flexible scope and all that goes with it.

    That means you have to present the basics, and get them nailed down as much as possible – “here’s what you say you want… here’s what we know now… here’s what we’d suggest…” These are the fixed items. Put in a section saying “here are some things you may think about… here is some blank space for you to think (think scheduling here)… and here are our ‘final’ prices”.

    Those “final prices” follow the “final schedule” in that they’re both ranges. This worked VERY successfully on a number of projects that I’ve driven. It’s worked as an estimating tool where it was obvious that Holy Creep was going to be a factor. You have to account for your time and the client has to feel safe that they’re not going to be abused on cost and schedule. You have to let them know that X is going to cost Y and add Z to the schedule. BUT it’s all been factored in originally.

    One project showed just how good our estimating skills had gotten – came in dead center on the costs and scheduling. And that included creep. Something to consider.

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  11. please help…
    what is the meaning of scope creep?

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  12. x_ash,
    When getting clients who don’t know what they need to tell you
    what they need the result is … scope creep

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  13. “If the clients knew what they wanted, would they need us?”

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