9 Great Points on Scope Creep

Some of you may have heard of the terrible thing we call scope creep, and others may not have. As a quick overview, scope creep is what happens when you have a well-defined Scope of Work, a set timeline, things are going great, and little by little extra things are added in to the project. The client asks nicely, the designer willingly does the extra work, and then BAM! the designer is angry with the client, the client doesn’t like the new bill, and what seemed to be a great project has now turned into a burning pile of ash. What happened? Scope Creep.

Bad for Everyone

Now, some could argue that scope creep benefits the client because they are getting more for their money, and the only loser is really the designer. This would be a poor argument. Here are 3 reasons why scope creep is bad for everyone, not just the designer.

  • The Timeline. We’ve talked about what you need in our post 3 Must Haves When Creating a Project Timeline, but what happens to your timeline when you add more stuff to a scope? The project gets longer. This affects everyone, and not in a good way. Expectations are no longer met for either party, and when expectations are broken, relationships break down. Keeping the relationship between client and designer defined and working smoothly means the project can proceed smoothly.
  • Loss of Focus. Having a Scope of Work in the first place is what defines the project and tells everyone what should be focused on. When you start messing with that, without taking a pause to look at the entire picture, you can easily derail a project and get to a point where it will end up costing everyone more time and money to get back on track.
  • Costs. With good designers, many of us protect ourselves and companies from scope creep with signed scope of works. We also use contracts that that state work outside of the initial scope will be charged extra. We are also always clear when something is going to cost extra. Some designers are not as up front about this, and will happily keep doing extra work, then send a final bill to the client who now is paying possibly thousands of dollars more than agreed upon. This of course causes problems all over.

What Your Designer Should Be Doing

In the end, Scope Creep costs both parties time, money, or both in the form of delays or extra billings. Creating an official change order is the easiest way to ensure changes are done right. This requires both parties to discuss what the change is and possible effects it may have to a design.
There are several ways you can handle possible scope creep situations. Designers each have their own ways of handling it, but for us, it’s about 3 things:

  • Expectations. These are guided start to finish, starting with explaining the process to a client, start to finish. Expectations are the biggest component of starting any relationship, and keeping it. Expectations go both ways and your designer should be setting theirs for you.
  • Scope of Work. We talk about The 4 Things Your Scope of Work Should Have and every project should have one. Not only does it help expectations, it lays out specific deliverables, and sets a timeline. I cannot over emphasize the necessity of having such a document.
  • Clear Communication. Communication is important with anything. When scope creep starts to show up, the only way to effectively stop it and keep things moving smoothly is communication. Have a conversation at the beginning of the project to review what has been decided. Without effective communication, no relationship will last.

What you can do

While these all happen when using a good designer, here are a couple of things you can do to help make sure scope creep doesn’t happen.

  • Know What You Want. It sounds simple, but we’ve spoken with many people who didn’t know exactly what they wanted from their project. Knowing what success looks like to you and what you want and even how you’d like to feel at the end of the project makes it easier for a project roadmap to be made in the form of a scope of work.
  • Ask Questions. And ask them at the very beginning. You should understand the process, how your designer works, fees, expectations, timeline, and deliverables before you sign a proposal or start the project fully. Make sure you ask questions, it can sometimes change the course of the entire project. Never be afraid to ask too many questions if you aren’t familiar with the process.
  • Value Your Time. Every time you want to change the scope, add something, or in some way begin to start scope creep, whether you know it or not, costs everyone time, including you.

Keeping these things in mind and making sure your designer does too. This is a great starting point to getting the most out of your project and your designer.

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