Oh, the Drama of Avoiding Scope Creep.
I coach hundreds of Black, women entrepreneurs each year on how to avoid scope creep. Scope creep is wreaks havoc in their service-based businesses. It refers to the uncontrolled or unplanned expansion of a project’s goals, deliverables, or requirements beyond its initial scope, which can lead to additional work, increased costs, and delayed timelines. This can cause stress for business owners, particularly when the scope of the project changes frequently. It can often leave you feeling like you’ve underpriced your services, when in fact, it’s the expansion of the scope that is the problem. Check out these seven ways to manage scope creep and prevent it from harming your business.
Let’s look at seven ways to avoid scope creep effectively:
- Define the Scope: Prior to starting the work, clearly define the scope of the project from the outset and document it in writing. This helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page and understands what is expected of them. Identify what the project aims to achieve and what success will look like. It is also helpful to name commonly requested items that are out of scope. It’s essential to involve stakeholders in the scope definition process in order to avoid scope creep. This includes anyone who has a vested interest in the project’s outcome, such as customers, clients, team members, and project sponsors. Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), a hierarchical breakdown of the project’s scope into smaller, more manageable components. The key is to have thorough, detailed conversations in the onboarding process. It may seem like a lot of work to have an in-depth conversation up front, but it could avoid hours of drama and work on the back end.
- Communicate Effectively: Establish clear lines of communication with the client and all stakeholders involved in the project. Encourage open and honest communication to ensure that everyone is aware of any changes in scope and their impact on the project. Using a centralized tool like a project management software can help streamline communication and allow all stakeholders to track progress, access project documents, and stay informed of any changes in scope. For example, you can use tools like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp to manage communication and collaboration with stakeholders. For on the go, or quick “back and forth” communication, try chat spaces like Google Chat or Slack. Whatever you choose, make sure the client is onboard with using the tool, has access and knows how to navigate the tool with ease.
- Set Realistic Expectations: In customer onboarding, before beginning the work, set realistic expectations for the project and your service offer from the outset. Make sure that everyone involved understands what is achievable within the given timeline and budget. Based on past experiences, share any possible causes for delay upfront. Share reminders of holidays, vacations or other special events that might extend timelines. Share your office hours and be clear about when responses to inquiries can be expected, especially for requests made on weekends or holidays.
- Monitor the Project: Keep a close eye on the project throughout its lifecycle. Monitor progress against the defined scope, timeline, and budget, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed. Set up a system in your project management software for tracking the project and all deliverables. Send and document clear, frequent updates to the client. Share delays or issues right away and never miss a deadline without reaching out to communicate the delay and expected new timeline for delivery.
- Negotiate Change Requests: To avoid scope creep, don’t do out-of-scope work without discussion. When a change request is received, negotiate the terms of the change with the client or stakeholder. Clearly communicate what is out of scope, and the impact of the change on the project’s timeline, budget, and overall success, and work together to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. If clients are questioning your pricing, read this.
- Document Changes: Document any changes in scope that occur during the project. This helps to avoid scope creep by ensuring that everyone involved in the project is aware of the changes and their impact on the project. Make sure to send follow-up emails detailing the changes and any new agreements in writing.
Managing scope creep can be a challenging task, but it is essential for the success of your service-based business. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can effectively manage scope creep and prevent it from harming your business and customer relationships. Remember, effective communication and documentation are key to managing scope creep, so be sure to prioritize these factors throughout your project’s lifecycle.
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