Project Scope: How to Identify Scope Creep Early On in a Project

I’ve been asked a lot lately about “how I know to do that” and “what the best way to start this type of project is”. The truth is I know what to look for because I’ve done it before. I’d consider myself an expert at it. I know what pitfalls typically come up. I know what is possible customization and what needs to be explained to the client as “out of scope”. I know what all the tiny pieces mean and I can imagine how they fit together. So even though there isn’t a secret that I can share to give you the same knowledge I do, here are some tips I have that may help you be a better analyzer of project scope.

  1. First, literally combine expectations
    • Typically on a project, you have two sides that need alignment of scope: the buyer and the seller. Usually in the form of a PO and a SOW or maybe a survey and out-of-the-box standards. Put them all together on a single document by category. Then any questions or notes you or the customer may have will be in the same place.
  2. Second, identify items that need more analysis time
    • Skim your combined document and watch for weight distribution of your comments and the client’s comments. A short statement on your side with lots of assumptions is most dangerous. A long description showing a concern area for the client is good news as they have shown they will put the time and care into ensuring that part is done right.
  3. Third, create mini projects
    • Anything that is a custom piece of development needs to have it’s own timeline and budget. Even if it’s something simple, it needs to go on the list as a separate issue or enhancement so that it can be fully tested and signed off on. If it doesn’t get approved, the rest of the project doesn’t so don’t forget about even the small stuff.

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