Scope creep is one of the biggest issues in modern projects because many projects never reach full completion stage. This isn’t because the team is lazy or incompetent, but simply because the changes that are taking place far outweigh the progress that is being made. Simply put, the rate of change is greater than the rate of progress on the project.
If the issue of scope creep is not dealt with properly, then the project becomes so big over time it turns into a huge burden for the team and never gets completed. Team members lose all motivation when they basically run to standstill. This is why it is essential for changes to be managed properly.
An effective change control process needs to be designed, implemented and adhered to. An effective project change control process depends on a scope that is very well defined and supported by an achievable baseline plan.
No matter how great your plan is though; remember that it won’t do you any good if the scope isn’t properly defined. Priorities need to be clear, the requirements need to well established, and a realistic project baseline with a clearly definite scope needs to be created.
The goal is to protect the scope of the project, which requires a formal process to manage any changes to the specifications of the project.
You need to inform the client of the importance of having a stable scope. You need to explain how any chaotic and poorly managed changes can derail the project and hurt the results.
You then need to create a change control process. The key questions that need to be answered are:
- What will the effect be on the timeline?
- What will it cost?
- What are the benefits?
The process needs to allow anyone to be able to propose a change. No matter from whom the proposal is coming from, they need to be able to provide a benefit to cost analysis. It is unlike in a court of law where you need to consider each change as being guilty before proven innocent. In other words the automatic response is to reject the change until the person requesting it can prove that it is imperative to the success of the project. Never accept a change unless it makes sense in a business environment.
Changes can come from various sources, including from within the team or from the customer. When the suggestion comes from within the team you need to be even more wary. People often try to be too clever and come up with bright ideas that aren’t essential to the project, but will increase workload and put too much of a burden on the project.
The changes that come from the customer or from management cannot easily be dismissed, unless there is a clear change control process in place from the beginning.
Without a clear process that has been agreed upon from the beginning you will have a hard time saying “no.” Of course, a good process doesn’t guarantee that you are able to deny the customer, but you have at the very least a greater chance of implementing changes that make sense.
Each proposed change must be objectively analyzed to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs. Remember to check how the changes in question affect the timing as well as the costs. Analyze any consequences that might inadvertently arise as a result of implementing these changes.
Keep in mind that changes don’t have to be accepted as they are or when they are proposed. As an alternative to outright rejection allow for the options to delay the change or to modify it. This way, some good ideas can be implemented, even if only a part of them make sense.
You need to establish the people who are involved in the change control process and ensure that at least one person has the power to veto the decision. In other words, involve someone who has the power to say no and no one can overrule his or her decision. This is generally the project originator or a committee.
When you receive change proposals, ensure that all the relevant data is included and analyze each proposal in a timely fashion. This way you won’t end up with a backlog of documents you have to deal with and accept changes without adversely impacting the schedule of the project.
Make sure you update your team and communicate the changes that require implementation. Communication is essential to a successful project. This is why everyone needs to be in the loop and aware of what is happening.
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