How to Prevent and Manage Scope Creep

We’ve been working on some projects recently where the goal posts…moved. It’s a common pattern in software development, especially with fast-paced businesses. In the old days of waterfall development, perhaps it was harder to do, but systems often arrived late, out of date, and brittle. With an agile approach, changes are faster and easier to include, which can create problems. Since it’s a continuous challenge in software development — especially in SaaS — we explain how to prevent and manage scope creep.

What Is Scope Creep?

Scope creep is simply described as a gradual growth of a project’s requirements beyond its original plan. It occurs when changes and additional features are introduced to a project, leading to an increase in project size, complexity, time, and costs.

What Causes Scope Creep?

A variety of factors cause scope creep…

Poorly Defined Requirements

If a project’s initial requirements are ambiguous or incomplete, scope creep is almost inevitable. Unclear expectations or assumptions about the project result in changes.

Evolving Stakeholder Needs

Stakeholders’ priorities and requirements, such as market changes or shifting business objectives, can change as the project unfolds.

Gold Plating

Gold plating is a euphemism for adding extra features to exceed expectations that fall outside the project’s objectives.

Poor Project Planning

Lack of foresight or incomplete analysis of requirements can lead to scope creep. Misunderstanding a project’s complexity, dependencies, and risks can lead to expanded scope.

Weak Project Management

Poor communication with stakeholders and developers often results in scope creep. Without effective oversight, changes can impact the project.

External Factors

Regulatory changes, technological advancements (e.g., ChatGPT), or other factors outside the organization can easily trigger scope creep.

Webapper: Scope Creep

How Do You Prevent Scope Creep?

Preventing scope creep requires a proactive approach… By implementing preventive measures, you can maintain control over project scope and increase the chances of delivering the project on time.

Invest in Discovery

Invest in requirements analysis. Identify desired functionality and potential risks. Understanding and documenting requirements early minimizes ambiguity.

Engage Stakeholders Frequently

Involve stakeholders in planning and requirements gathering. Regularly communicate with them to maintain a shared understanding of scope.

Educate Stakeholders

Help stakeholders understand the implications of scope changes on the project’s overall success. Explain the trade-offs in introducing changes.

Implement Change Control

A change control process should define how change requests will be evaluated and approved. Require stakeholders to justify changes and assess the impact on resources.

Prioritize Changes

Evaluate changes on their alignment with the project’s objectives, and assess their impact on the project schedule and resources.

Maintain Communication

Communicate clearly and regularly with stakeholders and team. Encourage stakeholders to provide feedback and address concerns early.

Regularly Review Scope

Conduct periodic reviews of the project scope to ensure it remains aligned with the project’s objectives and requirements.

How Do You Manage Scope Creep?

Managing scope creep after it has started requires a proactive approach. Here are steps you can take to regain control over your project…

Identify Creep

Document the changes and features that have been introduced beyond the original scope.

Assess Impact

Evaluate the impact on the timeline and budget.

Communicate with Stakeholders

Share your findings with stakeholders. Discuss the potential impact, such as delays or increased costs. Collect feedbback.


Prioritize the requests based on their significance and alignment with objectives. Negotiate with stakeholders to find a balance between accommodating changes and living with constraints.

Establish Change Control Procedures

Define change control procedures for requesting, evaluating, and approving changes. Track all change requests.

Revise the Schedule

Adjust the schedule to incorporate approved changes. Communicate the revised plan to everyone involved in the project.

Monitor Changes & Progress

Monitor progress and maintain strict control over changes. Continuously evaluate requests to prevent further creep.

Learn from Experience

Analyze the lessons learned to establish best practices for future projects.

How to Prevent and Manage Scope Creep

To avoid the problems of moving goalposts, it’s imperative to establish clear project objectives and requirements upfront, then communicate the plan to stakeholders. With defined deliverables, regular progress reviews, and change control procedures, it’s easier to keep the project on track. Stakeholders may push back (hearing NO for the first time), but by sharing the lessons and disadvantages of always adding on, they’ll come around. Keep your projects on-time, on-budget, and on-plan by mitigating scope creep!

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