Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Editors Note: we have updated this article for 2013, read the updated blog here.

Scope Creep (also called requirement creep, feature creep, and sometimes kitchen sink syndrome) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence to be avoided.

Typically, the scope increase consists of either new products or new features of already approved product designs, without corresponding increases in resources, schedule, or budget. As a result, the project team risks drifting away from its original purpose and scope on unplanned additions. As the scope of a project grows, more tasks must be completed within the budget and schedule originally designed for a smaller set of tasks. Thus Scope Creep can also result in a project team overrunning its original budget and schedule. If budget or schedule are increased along with scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term ‘Scope Creep’ not used.

Scope Creep can also be thought of as a process of trial and error for clients to discover what they really want…

Symptoms
• Projects that have been going on for a long time
• Clients who are picky and tend to change their minds often
• Scattered content and pieces for the website

Scope Creep Example
We took on a OS Commerce shopping cart project about a year ago. In my opinion, the client is one of the sweetest clients I’ve ever dealt with. The initial projections looked profitable; the budget and scope were optimistic. We all thought it was going to be a great addition to our portfolio. However as the project progressed, things started to change, and before you know it, we were over budget! What happened?

She found her own graphic designer, so our initial comps went to the graveyard…
A new photo shoot came around, we waited for a month…
The simple “portfolio” became a Flash portfolio with its own Scope Creep issues…
Content edits kept changing due to time sensitive information/press pieces…

Just when we thought we could wrap things up, the client became frustrated with the look and feel of the shopping cart. The graphic designer came back with a complete redesign of the cart including new headers, styles, color palettes and additional images that required detailed cropping and instructions. Mega Scope Creep alert! We became very aware that the project was slowly draining our resources.

When faced with this scenario, we can ask ourselves 2 questions: 1) What could we have done to prevent this from happening? 2) How can we make this a win-win situation? We informed the client of the issue and tried to wrap up the website with one final round of changes. The client understood that we were trying our best to deliver the shopping cart that she had envisioned. As of this writing the project still isn’t complete but we remain optimistic that it will launch soon.

The reality is that in this industry, some amount of scope creep is inevitable. It’s not only a process of trial and error for clients to discover what they really want, it’s also a process of learning how we as designers/developers can mitigate similar situations in the future. As a project manager, I definitely learned a valuable lesson: always be aware of the budget, set client expectations and clearly define the scope ahead of time!

-Temy Gu
Project Manager

If you have any questions or would like more information about how we handle and manage our web projects, please contact our web development team at Executionists for a free web consultation by following the link below.

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by admin
Posted: November 5, 2007