Anyone who’s ever worked on a group project will be familiar with the idea of “scope creep”, even if you don’t know what the term means yet. Here’s the scoop: a project might start out small and well-defined, but it grows more and more ambitious as more features are added on after the work has already started. This bloats the project until it becomes unfeasible, over-budget, and a huge drain on resources. Sounds familiar? It should – it happens everywhere: school projects, agencies, and (more worryingly), it happens in major corporations as well.
A big part of being a Project Manager is making sure everything stays on track and coordinated, but not all of us (especially in smaller businesses or startups) have a Project Manager. Not to worry, here are some things to remember to keep your projects in check.
Keep the Scope of the Project in Mind
Make sure everyone on your team understands what the project is meant to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with people offering suggestions, but it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Whenever a new addition is suggested, see if it aligns with the original scope.
Manage Client Expectations
Sometimes, the hardest parts about projects are the clients. Clients often want to add new features to a project without prior consultation, and will not be pleased to be turned down. It’s far too easy to just smile and nod to keep the client happy, but that’s not a healthy way of dealing with the problem. The client has to understand that any unforeseen changes, additions, or extra features will result in less time and budget for the rest of the project, or additional costs.
It’s dangerous to go overboard and stifle all new ideas. Conversations and discussions, as well as a positive working environment are all important for the success of the project.
If someone suggests an idea that sounds feasible, but is technically outside of the scope, ask him or her to spearhead the initiative. A lot of times, the person asking will refrain from pursuing the topic if they have to be the one to implement the change.
Don’t Waste Good Ideas
If someone does suggest a very good idea that falls outside the scope of the project, write it down. It may not be right for the current project, but it could be great for the next project. Write them down.
Remember the Lessons You’ve Learned
If, despite your best efforts, your team members (or clients) push towards more features outside of the scope, remember this for next time. Keep this in mind when you prepare the budget for future projects. Account for additional funds for unforeseen changes to mitigate the damage.