I have a very simple answer. "There is no such thing as scope creep. Don't talk about it, don't write about it, don't even think about it".
What you need to talk about is scope change, and as Shrek said to Donkey in the movie Shrek 2, "Change is good".
Now this does not make sense to many project managers. How can scope change be good? Does this not mean that your client is trying to get some changes made to the project, without paying for them or allowing the schedule to be extended.
No it does not. We tend to assume that is the case. Some clients may even tell us "we have no more money for this project, so just do it".
My advice is, just treat this as good input and reply, "I understand - let us go back and examine the changes you have requested and we will let you know their impact and how we can accommodate them".
Before we go any further, let's explore why scope change is good and something to be embraced, rather than resisted.
Scope change can be needed by your Client for a variety of reasons, such as:
- It was missed during the Scope Definition stage
- It is needed because of a change in business direction
- Some project stakeholders were not involved in the scope definition and are now demanding the change.
Whatever the reason, the project is going to be much better off with the change, so we need to find a way of implementing it in a "win-win" way.
Some of the ways you can accommodate a requested change include:
- The change is minor and can be implemented with no or minimal cost
- The change can be easily implemented as an enhancement, or in a future phase of the project
- The change does have a cost and impact if implemented immediately and this cost and impact should be determined.
But if the client has no more money for the project and the changes do have a significant cost, now what?
Here's a true story. I was overseeing an important project for our company, when the project manager came to me and said "The client wants some changes". I replied "You know our process - fill out the change request with the cost and get him to approve it".
He came back and said the client said he has no more money for the project, but needs the change. This was an important project for us to be successful on, and even though it was fixed price, I decided we would absorb the change. A few weeks later, the project manager came back and told me the client wants some more changes. Again I told him to fill out the change request and submit it to the client. This time I received an irate call from the client asking me to fire the project manager. "He keeps coming to me asking for more money and I keep telling him we have no more money". I said, "Don't blame the project manager. I asked him to give you the change requests".
We went back and looked into what we could do and came up with the approach that maybe the client would accept not doing some other functions that we felt were not as beneficial, in exchange for doing the requested changes. When we submitted our proposal to the client, to our surprise he accepted it without hesitation.
So don't forget, trading scope can be a great way to accommodate scope changes without incurring additional cost. The client benefits with the changes, and the project benefits from keeping on schedule and within budget. Talk about "win-win".