Aside from that time you discovered you lack resources and have feisty unpredictable clients, allowing scope creep to happen is the most dreaded moments in your project’s life cycle.
Scope creep is the wolf at the door of every digital marketing agency. But that doesn’t make the dreaded scope creeper an inevitable (and uninvited) guest at the project execution table. To strike the scope creep monster in the heart with a silver bullet, you need a suite of solutions and processes.
The good news is, with scope creep always lurking around the corner, you can still protect your project scope. We’ll give you easy and manageable solutions in this post.
Ready to beat that scope creep? Let’s hit it right between the eyes with the following agency weapons.
What are the signs of scope creep in project management?
Project scope creep happens when you encounter changes after implementing the project plan. When the client asks for additional tasks or makes change requests not included in the initial project scope document, it messes up the costs, resources, and the project timeline.
Unfortunately, it also messes you up, and that’s something you definitely don’t want.
Having different stakeholders in the mix entails a handful of minds running in different directions all at once. Too many cooks in the kitchen equals scope creep.
When the shadow of scope creep darkens the land of your digital marketing agency, your team members and clients will:
- inputs into the planned task list
- Suggest additional features not included in the original project requirements
- Implement their own unsolicited opinions on the project team’s scope of work
- Make other small requests that harsh your agency mellow
True, additional new features on the final output make the client happy and ecstatic. That’s all good. But along the way, if the requests have bypassed the change control process, it’s an indication of scope creep.
Can your agency handle scope creep?
Scope creep may start as a deviation from what was initially agreed upon and outlined in the project plan. As a project manager, you might be afraid to negotiate with new clients, so you accommodate any new change request that hits your inbox.
But then, just two weeks later, your team members have already missed deadlines!
What you need are boundaries.
Prevent scope creep: Your first line of defense
Setting boundaries and going with a planned project schedule helps manage scope creep and prevent it from further ruining your timeline.
In most cases, clients boundary-stomp inadvertently. They might think that making revision requests ASAP is doing you a favor. But if these change requests are made outside the scope of the original (or even modified) project brief, then it falls under the scope creep umbrella.
And these little twists and turns aren’t doing you any favors.
Project scope creep is that freeloader friend in your apartment, who doesn’t pay rent on time or take out the trash.
You’re oh so nice. So you don’t say anything. You simmer and brood instead.
Next thing you know, your crummy roommate is inviting over their party animal friends, eating your leftover lo mein, and doing shots off your heirloom Stickley coffee table
Despite all the boundary-stomping, maybe you don’t want the friendship to end. But you might have saved the relationship early by communicating the house rules and learning when to say no.
3 ways to prevent scope creep in your digital agency
So, how do you help you help your clients help you, and prevent scope creep? Let’s get into the top strategies for managing scope creep next.
Revisit the project scope and document all changes
The first strategy you’ll want to deploy is monitoring the project schedule after the planning process. Unfortunately, it’s usually in the project execution phase that project scope creep occurs. And when it happens it snowballs, becomes even harder to stop scope creep from taking over your project.
A client asks for a new website, complete with personal branding and product uploading. All is well in the land of new client projects.
But wait! Not so fast.
Your team members suddenly receive a call from the client seeking to change the color scheme and theme.
Ruh roh. This will affect your specialists’ and developers’ tasks and will undoubtedly divert from the originally agreed project scope.
Handling new requests on the fly
Digital marketing agencies can easily face this problem head on and prevent scope creep while changing with market demands and keeping clients happy, too.
Project managers must formalize any deviation from the original project scope via a change control process.
Why does this work so well? Because it allows project managers to accurately track project requirements and project deliverables.
A modification, or change request, not included in the existing project plan must be meticulously documented to ensure the change is accounted for and that changes to the schedule are anticipated and addressed.
Balancing team member’s expertise and bandwidth
Managing scope creep adequately also means balancing your project team members’ expertise and time.
For example, when emergencies cause human resources to fall behind, or team members prefer working on better projects, these also lead to scope creep in the existing and future project timelines.
In addition, project plan alterations can mess up other projects and delay these projects’ timelines.
Start with clearer communication
A successful project outcome can’t happen if you and the client have poor communication skills. You need good two-way communication.
Remember the exchanging of information between two or more parties? Yep. That.
It helps the project manager avoid scope creep when everyone involved knows how to listen and respond. Plus, it lets you know you’re on the same page with the clients and contractors involved in the project and execution process.
Host a kickoff meeting first.
Throwing a kickoff meeting with project stakeholders and project team members prevents scope creep from hamstringing your team.
A kickoff meeting lets you outline all the project details, no matter how small. It should be the the first meeting you have with all the parties who will participate in execution of the project.
What does a kickoff meeting include?
Ask away and get the answers to these most important questions:
- What’s the project scope and summary?
- How will we handle bottlenecks and contingencies?
- Who’s working together on which deliverables?
- What’s a reasonable turnaround time for each milestone?
As a project manager, you must communicate with project participants. And it’s also crucial that you and everyone working on the project (and the client) fully understand the project scope document.
Avoid too much verbal-only communication
To manage scope creep adequately, you need to communicate in black and white. You need to document, document, document!
- Documentation keeps people accountable
- It prevents confusion
- Everyone can stay on the same page
Contracts, spreadsheets, written agreements — the sky’s the limit.
Documentation action steps
As a project manager, be sure to double-check your most important documents, such as clients’ waivers and amendments.
Have collaborators review and sign the documents. Spend time reading everything. Clear up any misunderstandings regarding additional fees and tasks, so you aren’t shortchanged.
What happens if scope creep starts a’creepin’?
Once scope creep begins sneaking in, inform stakeholders of the current project status and what actions you and the team must take to avoid further diversion from the project scope.
Never mislead your clients or team members. And make sure you know when to say no to client requests that will knock the project off course.
Gently remind your clients of the original scope if necessary to avoid further misunderstandings.
Also, keep in mind that information dissemination is a two-way street.
Avoiding scope creep means listening to client feedback during project milestones. Let them know upfront what to expect, so you’re meeting their expectations and keeping your clients happy.
Project managers, it’s never too late to use powerful project management software
Digital agencies face scope creep more than most businesses out there. Fortunately, you’ve got tons of tools and software at your disposal.
Chances are, there’s app out there that can help with your specific project management issues.
At first, it might seem tricky to start, install, set up, and invest in the app’s premium features. But, you’ll see how the setup is worth it once you’re halfway through your project — scrambling through receipts, folders, and papers. Or hitting CTRL+F in your spreadsheets to locate something your team created yesterday. And no one can find it.
But we want to stress — picking a gem from the millions of software tools on the market isn’t enough to fully protect a project’s scope.
Managing project scope creep: Implement efficient project management software.
Project managers utilize the right tools to watch resource allocation, change control processes, firm parameters, specific details on project goal updates, and overall, complete project work.
An effective project management tool or app lets you automate and sync, so you can do more with your time, putting everything into place and passing on essential updates to your clients and your team. All in real-time.
Project management software lets you keep an eye on additional requests from the agreed-upon scope to avoid missing deadlines.
Additionally, it lets you see the big picture and observe human resource utilization and capacity and your budget and cost savings. Reports are also automatically generated to help you analyze data and forecast the need for extra contractors or team members.
Bottom line: Scope creep-proof your agency!
In an ideal setting, you create a project plan, meet with your client, brief your team, execute the project and move on to your next assignment.
But this is the real world. And in the real world, it’s not that simple.
There will always people and events that make scope creep happen and cause you to lose control of the project. Scope creep-proofing your digital marketing agency may not mean eliminating scope creep totally.
Instead, implementing the tools and processes necessary to prevent scope creep prepares you for it.
Preparation also helps minimize your worries of scope creep developing into a larger, unmanageable boulder blocking your way to project completion.
Implement these 3 easy solutions to avoid scope creep and save the day:
- Monitor your project scope and record all the changes
- Constantly communicate with project members
- Use reliable project management tools
With these solutions, you’ll stop potential changes in your project scope in their tracks with ease.
No doubt about it.
Manage scope creep with the help of ScaleTime!
Our Agency Project Management Checklist gives you access to vital project requirements, including 80/20 must-haves, key document templates, valuable metrics, and other features that optimize your project and team members’ expertise.
Streamline your process and say goodbye to lack of productivity.
Download the checklist here.