How to Prevent “Scope Creep”

You receive an invoice from your website or software developer. You query a charge you didn’t know about. The developer tells you it relates to a new feature they developed… one that you asked for.

“I did?!”

I’ve seen this happen many times. The problem stems from discussions along the way – when you casually say, “It would be nice to have… ” or wonder aloud, “Would it be possible to… ?”

In one case, when the developer presented his design for a shopping cart on the company website, the CEO looked at it, nodded, and remarked, “Wouldn’t it be good if we could somehow add money-off coupons so we could tie in our printed advertising with the website?” Everyone at the meeting agreed that, vague as the idea was, it would, indeed, “be good.”

They forgot about it, but the developer didn’t. And they were surprised when he came back with a new design – and a bill for the $7,500 it took to implement the coupon feature.

When you are in brainstorming or “blue-sky-creative-anything-goes” mode, many developers will interpret the “Can we do this?” ideas that are thrown out as “I require you to do this.” I’ve seen it increase project costs by tens of thousands of dollars.

To prevent what project managers refer to as “scope creep” (because it stretches out the scope of the project), tell the developer at the outset that any changes to the original contract must be documented in writing and okayed by everyone involved. That includes associated costs, as well as any effect the additional work will have on the project’s timeframe.

Putting every requested change in black and white, clearly stating cost and time implications, helps everyone stick to their budgets and deadlines… and prevents future shock.

[Ed. Note: Did you ever cost your company – or yourself – money because you didn’t get the details of a job in writing? Let us know right here.]

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