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What is Scope Creep?

  • Written by JW Surety Bonds


We’ve all had that client who had one too many changes for a project or seemed a little too enthusiastic with their feedback. These may not be our favorite customers to work with, but many of us continue to work with them without pushing back or saying, “no.” You might concede to these requests because you want to keep your client happy (or just keep your client). However, conceding to costly changes and endless rounds of feedback can end up costing you a lot in the long run.

Scenarios like this result in scope creep. This is when your project’s scope grows larger than you anticipated. It’s referenced as “creep” since this usually occurs slowly over time without anyone noticing until it’s gotten to a point where it’s too high. Your greatest tools to fight against scope creep are managed expectations and proactive problem solving. Understanding scope creep creep is a big small business lesson you should learn early on to keep your team on track and to ensure you’re not giving away your work for free. We’ll go into more detail below on what you’ll need. 

Who Causes Scope Creep?

Scope creep can happen as a result of many things. Clients are a common source of scope creep along with other stakeholders, your team and even you.

Clients can have too many requests or be too hands on. This results in extra time spent on client communication and project revisions. On the other hand, you may have a client who doesn’t give much feedback at first, but then gives you lots of feedback after lots of the work is completed. 

Stakeholders on your end and the clients end can also hike up your scope. Your client’s boss and other team members may be giving you additional feedback that’s outside of what you and your client contact originally agreed on. Your client may also get pressure from their stakeholders, resulting in them pressuring you for things that may not be in line with what you originally discussed. They may even pressure you for stakeholder requests that don’t have value for them.

Similarly, you may find yourself getting pressure from your boss, partner or anyone else with influence on your team. You may have a boss who pressures you to consistently impress the client with additional deliverables that costs too much time and may even delay work on the main project.

Finally, you and your team can contribute to scope creep. You may be eager to impress a new client and spend extra time that may not be necessary. Your team may be managing their time poorly and end up spending too little or too much time on crucial parts. Poor initial project scoping can also add pressure to your team and affect the quality of your end product. 


What are the Red Flags?

Scope creep is tricky to spot since the signs aren’t obvious, especially if you’re not looking for them. Saying “yes” to a few extra edit rounds or project additions may not seem like it’ll be costly upfront, but it all comes down to how much it cost in time and money to execute that extra work. Big signs of accepting too much work are an overworked team and high project costs.

The more obvious thing to watch for are excessive edit rounds or an influx of feedback. Some changes and feedback is to be expected with any project, but too much may be a sign of a bigger issue. Your team and your client may not be on the same page as far as expectations, so this may mean that you need to hop on a call to clarify anything that’s unclear.

How Can I Prevent It?

You can prevent scope creep by getting on the same page with clients from the beginning. Ask them about their expectations and educate them on things they may not understand. This way, they’ll know what results to expect once the project is complete. You should also establish feedback and approval processes before the project commences. A clear timeline and feedback structure can cut down on unnecessary, one-off questions and comments since they’ll know when to expect to hear from you. Finally, you should also define specific KPIs for your project so you’ll both know if your on track or not with your goals.

During the project, you’ll still need to keep an eye on your project to ensure things go smoothly. You can check your current progress and expenses to your current projects costs, timeline and KPIs. Checking these goals gives you an objective checkpoint to tell you if you’re on track or not. Using business technology can expedite and automate this process for you so you can spend more time on work and less on these administrative tasks. 

The more obvious thing to watch for are excessive edit rounds or an influx of feedback. Monitor your client’s feedback and ask yourself and your team if you think it’s reasonable with the terms you agreed on with your contract. If something is out of scope, bring this up right away to your client and offer them options.


Take a look at this scope creep guide from JW Surety Bonds to learn even more about scope creep, the causes and what you can do to keep it under control with your business.


Image - JW Surety Bonds

how to manage scope creep infographic

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