Danger – scope creep

It’s like gas, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but it creeps up on you and before you know it, it’s all around you.
Scope creep is a dangerous threat to any small business and we’re highlighting it here because we’ve experienced it first hand.
It’s when a project is unclearly defined or the specification changes from the original concept leading to uncharted work being provided without additional resources or financing. Even a written project guide can suffer from scope creep if the individual component parts of the project are not defined properly.
The scope is the boundary, if you like, of the project and what you are contracted to do. It creeps when the client asks for, expects or demands additional tasks without applying additional resources or financing. Sometimes innocently, sometimes deliberately.
So why is it so dangerous?

Having everyhting in black and white may sometimes seem unnecessary, but it's essential for both parties to know exactly where the boundaries are.
There’s nothing wrong with changes in scope, as long as a provision of resources is made for them. The primary resource is time. Any additional task will take more time, but you may choose to not charge extra for it. If the project has a fixed price, then scope creep is a very serious threat to the project’s economy. And if you are a freelancer with a busy schedule, this can impact on all your client work.
Thursday Bram at Freelance Switch suggests four ways to kill scope creep.
There are few businesses that won’t ‘do that little bit extra’ for their clients, some will ‘go the extra mile’ but that should be your choice, a reward perhaps for someone’s custom, or a bit of ‘give’, when there has been ‘take’, but as long as you stay in control, everything will be OK.
When scope creeps beyond the realms of reason, you have a problem. Maybe the client didn’t fully understand the specification and suddenly realised there was something missing. Maybe they like to think they hold the purse strings so can ask for anything they want. There are many reasons. But there is no excuse.
Scope creep can appear in many guises: small tasks that seem insignificant can push back larger, higher priority tasks, and that can lead to a missed deadline. An ambiguous specification is also a danger, because what is asked for may not be what is expected.
If there are other agencies working on the project, make sure it is clear what they will be providing or what you will need to provide to them. If you suddenly have to create something you were expecting to be provided, you’ve got scope creep.
Sometimes it can extend to communications. We can usually estimate the number of meetings a project will need. But few of us factor telephone calls and emails into a project, but reading, writing and talking do take time and if your client wants you to spend more time talking about the project than doing the project, it too can impact on the project timeline.
A scope document can be seen as an extension of a contract, but both are equally important to any project, and should clearly define it in case of dispute.
The upshot is that unless you renegotiate your contract or even the scope, you are going to spend a large part of the project working for nothing, and this is not good for either party.
Negotiate and renegotiate by all means, but prevention is better than cure, and a well-defined scope document will provide an added level of protection for you and clarity for the client.