Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scope Creep

Scope creep can turn what sounds like a relatively simple project into a never-ending assignment without clear directions from the outset. It was to be a pretty straightforward task; develop an interactive website in which the client would be able to input daily data changes along with the ability to edit basic content. The plan was to develop a website in which the client would be able to manage upon completion. The client was a friend and the rate was a flat fee. Two big mistakes if return on investment is your primary objective.

Portny, Mantel, Meredith,  Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) define scope creep as “The natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (p.350). After presenting the client with a general look and navigation structure, we met for a brainstorming session. He liked the initial design but he had some very specific ideas as well. The brainstorming session turned into a redesign marathon. After several hours of executing his ideas we had established a virtually complete design and structure. We concluded the meeting feeling comfortable with our progress. In the following days, I finished up some technical issues and essentially handed the project over, or so I thought.

As a friend, the client knew that I would be available for additional help, particularly with any technical issues, and he began managing the site smoothly. However, the more that he interacted with the site, the more ideas he developed. Hitt states to “communicate clearly what the plan entails” (2009, p.499) and Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) insists to make clear, “This is where it begins. This is where it ends”. New graphics were creeping in along with more animation and interactivity. I liked the ideas and accepted the request. A little at a time, I would continue to add additional levels of interactivity. These changes were purely cosmetic so there was no clear deadline. Eventually the requests ended and the project was ultimately a success.

This project was certainly more of a personal nature than a professional one and the scope creep in this project came as a result of wanting to assist a friend. This can easily occur in a professional arena as well when the project manager accepts additional tasks with the desire of pleasing the client. Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) states “Saying ‘no’ is one of a PM’s essential tools for controlling scope creep”. Had the scenario not been personally related, considering the impact of the request is a must. Learning to say “no” can virtually make or break a project with a strict timeline and budget.


Hitt, M. A., Miller, C. C., & Collela, A. (2009). Organizational Behavior: A strategic approach. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Defining the Scope of an ID Project . [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner Voices: Overcoming Scope Creep. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


  1. Hi Christopher,

    This is a very interesting scenario, and a great example of how difficult it can be to control scope creep when the project manager is also a friend of the client. I would be curious to know based on what you have learned in this course what you would do differently if this situation were to present itself now. I look back on a couple of projects I have been involved with in the past, and this class has helped bring some new ideas and perspective on those projects.

  2. It seems like the friend took advantage of you. You were trying to help and then you and him were always trying to make the website better. Therefore, friends and professionalism should be kept separate because this type of a situation can ruin friendships.