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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Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies. David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen! He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.