How to Avoid Project Management ‘Scope Creep’ At All Costs

Here are five things you can do to stop scope creep before it happens.

Imagine this scenario: You have decided to create a mobile app as a part of your company’s overall marketing strategy. So, you take your app idea to a developer and they start work.

After a month the app development company reviews the team’s progress and decides it needs something a little more, so the developers go back to work with the managers suggestions. A couple weeks later the manager checks in again and comes up with three more suggestions.

The developers, dutiful as ever, follow their boss’s lead and implement the additions. Over the following months, this occurs again and again until, finally, the app is far more robust and complicated than you had ever intended.

This, dear friend, is known as “scope creep.”

We call it “creep” because it happens so gradually, over time, that you do not notice until it’s too late. Then you have go forth on a relentless quest back and forth to get the project scope back in line with what it should be.

Here are five things you can do to stop scope creep before it happens:


  1. Clearly define project scope.

    This is the number one way to stop scope creep. If you have solid targets and clear requirements laid out in an agreement, you’ll see creep coming if the project looks like it’s starting to deviate from the plan. You must also understand the agreement. This means the developer should take a collaborative approach to defining the scope, and settle on what your mobile app needs.

  2. Assign or hire a rock star project manager (PM).

    Your project manager needs to be tough as they come. They must be firm, yet fair and not afraid to be critical of ideas. There must be a hard line between needs and wants, so the manager must have that discerning eye to separate those things. The PM should be the only person who can sign off on project changes as well.

  3. Understand the pricing and time-frame model.

    Scope creep can mean certain death for most outsourced projects, especially for app developers because it causes projects to go over time, and over budget. The pricing estimate and timeline are generally settled in an agreement so,  expanding the scope (when it is not truly necessary) can often turn a project over the edge. Don’t agree to more than what is needed, and stay within your initial plan.

  4. Agree to a regimented change log process.

    It might be inevitable that a project will change, and when this happens there should be a strict process for registering, and implementing changes to the project. It can happen for any number of reasons, so it’s important to ask for a meticulous record of what changes are made, and why they were implemented.

  5. Divide a project into milestones.

    Projects, including the app development process in particular, should be broken down into various milestones. These milestones act as checkpoints to ensure everything is holding true to the plan. When reviewing task duration, always ensure that room for error is accounted for, as things seldom go exactly as planned. Milestones can include things like prototyping, beta testing, documentation, and final delivery.

Scope creep has been the death of many projects, so take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen to your business. These preventative measures can help make sure that your outsourced projects stay on course and produce on time and on budget.


Prince Sinha, VP Mobile Apps Solutions, writes on behalf of Apps Developers Australia, an app development company, specializing in iPhone, Android, Windows 8 and Smart Tv apps. Sinha loves blogging and is a self-proclaimed tech expert. Connect with Sinha on Google+.


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