As uncomfortable as it may be for some, change continuously surrounds our personal and professional lives. On a daily basis we are faced with influential factors which force us to assess a situation and react by accepting or denying a change. Projects are no exception. The world is full of inevitable changes. Project managers need to recognize, control, and manage change within the project scope of their projects.
Change introduced after defining the scope of the project impacts the organization’s employees and business processes, and the technical services used to design, develop and deliver the desired solution. Failure to manage change has definite impacts and may result in a less than satisfactory solution implementation. Despite our best efforts to define and validate a project’s objectives, scope, and requirements, the uncontrolled expansion of any of these factors has the potential to cause a downstream effect on resources, schedule, costs, risks, and quality of the solution to be delivered.
Scope Creep: From a project management perspective, I have found the most significant and damaging change to a project is business and/or technical “Scope Creep”. Although there are very legitimate reasons for business changes, I have found the most common form of change is ‘business scope creep’ which typically occurs the first time the business area is presented with any tangible deliverable. This is where we tend to hear ‘this is not what I had envisioned’ or ‘Oh, by-the-way can you change or add something to this feature’. Sometimes the delivery team, wanting to please the business area, attempts to comply without considering all the ramifications of the request or notifying the appropriate person of the desired change. The delivery team may also want to deviate from the design specifications to ‘enhance’ the functionality. The team’s reasoning may be to benefit the business area, gain experience through use of new technology, or just add ‘pizazz’ to the deliverable.
As Project Managers at SDLC Partners, we raise awareness that change is inevitable but ‘scope creep’ is a significant challenge to the success of the project. Scope creep acts as a potential inhibiter to meeting project objectives. My belief, which is carried on to my team, is that ‘change for the sake of change’ does not necessarily add value and may not be necessary. Using a change control process to manage change is the appropriate tool. A project manager must strive to keep the focus on the project’s objectives and scope, as defined in the project charter. My experience has indicated the vast majority of scope creep occurs between the end-user and the technical delivery team. Therefore, you need to earn the delivery team’s buy-in to recognize scope creep and be a ‘champion’ of change management. Managing change is an integral part of a project manager’s responsibility/role definition. This approach has been reasonably successful for me. I am interested if anyone else had similar experiences, successes, or alternative approaches to handling ‘scope creep’.
George Galbraith is a Principal Consultant at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss Project Management.