Scope creep is something that needs to be managed from the very start of a project, whether you are a seasoned project manager or a virtual assistant. Creep can happen during the course of a project when someone decides they want to change something or take things in another direction. It’s quite a challenge to prevent, but doing so will keep your costs, processes, and deadlines where they belong.
Those who fall prey to scope creep make bad reputations for themselves, even when it’s not their fault. Delivering a project that is both over budget and late isn’t going to make anyone look good, so there tends to be a lot of discussion around this topic in forums. At its core, being in control of scope is a matter of keeping everything well documented and planning ahead.
Clearly Show Your Purpose
Scope creep commonly stems from different people having different ideas about what the project outcome is meant to be. This misunderstanding can be avoided if everyone is aware of what the project goals are, what the deliverables are, and the results that are meant to be achieved. Document everything and present it to your client(s) — this is also the perfect time for them to give you feedback. This means that you can change your plan before any more time is spent moving the project that particular direction.
Visibly Prioritize Your Deliverables
Importance can be a matter of opinion, and when you’re working on a project, it’s best to see where your attention should be focused. Consider what you’re expected to deliver and when you’re meant to deliver it, work out launch dates, timelines, your budget, how you’re going to assure quality, and how you’re going to run development. Write a list that your client can sign-off on that has all these things in order, from most important to least important.
Always make sure that there are no surprises for anyone and that you can later follow your plans carefully knowing that they have all been approved and understood.
Assign All Tasks Appropriately
Project management tools like Asana or Basecamp can help you to assign work to the people in your team who are most qualified to do a specific task. Having tasks and sub-tasks mapped out will help you to know how all the tasks come together and what is reliant on more than one person to keep workflow going. When assigning tasks, make sure you clearly show milestones and always leave some extra time for unanticipated snags. It’s better to allocate more time than needed than not enough.
Having all this mapped out makes it easy to present to stakeholders or sponsors and you can clearly show them where any changes will lead to movement in the timeline or costs.
Always Use Change Forms
Change forms are something that should be discussed at the very beginning of a project and it should be made clear that no changes will be considered unless there’s a form to go with them. These forms help to outline how any change can impact the money, or time, it takes to complete the project, and are used to assess whether or not these changes are worth it.
No project is going to run through exactly as it was planned from the start, but huge and costly changes can be prevented by good planning and hefty documentation. Given how easily a project manager can gain a bad reputation from not managing their scope creep, it’s in their best interest to focus heavily on how to avoid this happening, rather than trying to manage it when it does.
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