It’s Sunday morning. You decide to make breakfast. That’s your scope. You enjoy making breakfast, then you enjoy eating it. Then you settle down to binge-watch a favorite show. But wait – you need to clean up the kitchen first. Is that added scope? Or should it have been included in your original scope? Probably the latter, in this case.
‘Scope creep’ is a commonly used term to describe the added scope that may have been missed in the clearly defined scope of a work package or project. Some examples illustrate real-world scope creep situations.
Your new house is completed and you have moved in. A drenching rain-storm unloads, and you are suddenly acutely aware that the downspouts from your roof gutters (evestroughs, for Canadians) dump the water a just a meter away from the house! This causes the ground to be water-logged as the flow to cover, and ruins, a large area of your lawn. The fix is to ‘hard-pipe’ the water to a storm water drain or a street gutter. As the house is still under warranty, you call the builder and tell them that you need the downspouts flow to be hard-piped to the street. They send out a crew, at their cost, and get the job done. This was scope creep for them. It could have been intentional negligence as they may have hoped we would not notice until the warranty period was over. Or the specification may simply not have included the hard-pipe. Scope creep is often not really obvious.
In a software solution world, scope creep comes in a variety of flavors. Some of these are not evident, or even of interest, to the client – until they are. One such area is secure access to data. For example, as a contractor, you would not want your procurement, field office, QA/QC or Safety teams to have access to your hourly billable rates. Why? This information is business-critical and also should never get into the hands of a competitor. If someone could print, export or even screen-snip this critical data, they could provide it to your competition. Unless the specification explicitly requires the security of this data – i.e have it be limited to certain roles in the HR or Cost Control department only, is the solution provider off the hook? Could they be asked later to add this security at their cost? Did they let this scope creep up on them?
Another example is ‘evolving’ business rules. For example, your company has a standard approach to computing your billable rates for completing a ‘time and materials’ project. To ensure that you defray your in-house expenses, you add on a percent for Office Overhead and a percent for Consumables. And you have an additional add on rate for Profit. To make things interesting, you want each of these ‘Addons’ costs to be mapped to a dedicated WBS Code within the Project. Why? So that you can review your recovery of these costs on a per project basis – as opposed to the per WBS code basis where you actually bill, and recover, these costs. The potential scope creep here may occur in each of these areas: Addon Categories Supported and WBS Code Maps. You may want to add more Addon categories for a specific project – based on agreements with a new customer. Each project may have a different WBS code to which you would map each Addon. Each of these changes could be considered scope creep. Now that I have mentioned them, it would be easy for the client to simply request them in the final product. Some vendors would estimate and bill for this as a scope change. An experienced, and mature, vendor would already have the solution configured to be flexible to accommodate such a change – and be willing to be burdened with the costs involved. Our approach, at TeamWork Group, is to make our customer trust that we have the ‘techy’ issues in hand – so that they can get on with their core business, and not have to also worry about being ‘nickle-and-dimed’ for changes that are essentially technical in nature.
Our clients are not technical experts. They are experts in their business. So, we enter into agreements with them that help to provide them with the confidence that we will maintain the required control of their technical issues. And we constantly work to earn the trust they have in us.
To avoid being constantly scared by scope creep, a good insurance plan is establishing a mutually-beneficial relationship with your solution provider.