Some of you may have heard of the terrible thing we call Scope Creep, and others may not have. As a quick over-view, 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. 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 how to set a timeline here, 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 clauses that state work outside of the scope document will be charged extra, and we’re 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.
In the end, Scope Creep costs both parties time, money, or both in the form of delays or extra billings. The easiest way to deal with changes is to make sure an official change order is created, which 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. Understanding what is expected of both the client and the designer is very important.
- Scope of Work. This is required for every project we take on, and discussed here. 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. Sometimes things are not understood at the beginning of a project, and there needs to be a conversation to go over what was decided at the beginning of the project. Without effective communication, no relationship will last.
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. We’ve run into a lot of situations where a client didn’t ask a question early on, for one reason or another, and that one question helped them understand something that changed the entire 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, is a great starting point to getting the most out of your project and your designer.