Be on the Lookout Because Project Scope Creep Will Kill Your Budget and Your Schedule
The October Austin WordPress Deep Dive Discussion focused on the all-too-common, and costly issue of project scope creep. The presentation was geared towards WordPress freelancers, entrepreneurs and digital creatives.
We all understand that it is so easy to get focused on running and maintaining our WordPress businesses, that some things can slip through the cracks. Ineffective customer onboarding processes and client relations management systems are often some of the issues that can lead to project scope creep.
What exactly is project scope creep, and how can you keep it from creeping up on you?
During the presentation, we identified warning signs, how to handle and manage project scope creep, and ways to prevent common profit-eating pitfalls. These Deep Dive Discussion notes were developed for those consultants, freelancers and digital creatives that have been pursuing their WordPress dreams for a while, and would benefit from a refresher about how project scope creep can negatively affect your business and what to do about it.
What Is a Project Scope of Work?
Let’s start by reviewing some of the basics. The project scope is the work you have agreed to do for your client. The Working Project Scope may have expanded from the original Project Brief you produced for the client as part of Discovery. The Final Project Scope represents the agreed work your client has contracted from you and your creative team. The Project Scope is outlined in the Statement of Work that is in your written proposal that was signed by, and agreed to, by your client.
To repeat, your final project scope is always in a Written Format!
What Exactly is Scope Creep?
Scope Creep is when the scope of the project expands (additional tasks) without any changes to the budget or timeline.
What Can Cause Scope Creep?
Over the years Nick and I have had projects go sideways in a number of ways for a number of reasons. But, if I were to list my project management failures that directly led to Scope Creep they would be:
- An Ineffective Customer Onboarding Processes
- Not Having a Complete Project Brief
- Not sticking to the agreed to Scope of Work
- Ineffective Client Relations Management
- Lack of Consistent Processes and Systems
We have focused on improving each of these processes and that effort has improved the bottom line and reduced stress. However, it is so easy to backslide with existing clients, especially with clients we like.
How Does My Project Scope Get CREEPY
The “Creep” part is because additional tasks aren’t usually added in obvious ways. It’s usually in smaller less obvious ways these extra things “Creep” into a project.
Some Common Examples Of Creep Encroachment
Scope Creep – Example 1 – The Quick Fix
From your client’s view…these are “easy quick fixes”
Just a “few clicks” for a Pro like you…”
OK, so am I the only one who has ever stayed up half the night chasing an allegedly easy fix. Nah, I didn’t think so.
As WordPress professionals, fixing problems is what we do, we are fixers, pleasers, the folks that make it right. Which is great character trait as long as someone is paying us. The number and type of client “fixes” and revisions are (or should be) listed in your Statement of Work. Once the client has blown through the contractual agreed-to changes, they have entered into the ‘Change Order Zone’ that place where we discuss how this change will affect the cost and the timeline.
Scope Creep – Example 2 –The Pre-Launch Addition…
Your client contacted you to set up their website. They listed all the things they wanted on the website. When they review the pre-launch site they say: “I’ve been thinking about it, and we will need another page — just a really basic text page. That’s simple— right?”
The WordPress Pro knows when to say, “No, actually that is not a simple fix. It will require several changes to the structure of the site that was not in our bid or Statement of Work.”
“Here is the best way to address your new idea, we will launch the site as planned. I will give you a bid for Phase two of the project so you can add the page and any other changes you would like to see.”
Scope Creep – Example 3- The Pre-Launch Form Change
Your customer reviews the pre-launch site, looks up and smiles: “I didn’t realize before but I think this form needs a couple of extra fields.”
The WordPress Pro responds. “We can do that, but it will require a change order and will push back the project at least two weeks. Can you authorize the budget increase and the accept the delayed delivery date for your firm?” Or you can use the answer to Example 2. The point is, all these changes are the responsibility of the client. This is not something you do for free because you feel the need to appease a client or be thought of as a good person.
Recognizing Scope Creep When it Starts
- If your client requests items that were NOT agreed to upfront, then it is SCOPE CREEP
- If your client asks for things that they never communicated to you and are NOT in the written, signed proposed statement of work — It’s SCOPE CREEP.
Project Profitability — Death By a 1000 Cuts
Client requests are usually very small things. But small fixes and tweaks can mount up to many hours more work – UNPAID Hours. I don’t know about you but I get cranky when I invest hour upon hour on work without being paid for that effort. The sad news is some clients have no shame. They have absolutely no problem asking for major changes, requests that can take hours, even days to complete. As a freelancer, it is your responsibility to refuse unreasonable requests, and in my mind, if it isn’t in the statement of work, or covered by a change order, it’s unreasonable.
An “Are You Freaking Kidding Me” Scope Creep Example
Just so you know, this actually happened to us. The client contacts you to write a custom plugin. Working with the client you scope the requirements. Yoy produce the plugin that meets those requirements. The client “rethinks” the project upon final review and asks you to change how the plugin works…but doesn’t think he should be charged any extra to completely rework the plugin?
When a Client Request Is NOT SCOPE CREEP
Client work is requested and…
- A written change order is Issued
- The budget is increased
- Delivery time is extended…
- More work +more Money+extended timeline = Profit
- Happy, Happy, Happy
Why Understanding and Managing Scope Creep is Critical
Even if we are using value-pricing, must WordPress Creatives and Developers usually work from a fixed quote. This is why we must be meticulous in developing the project brief and strictly stick to the agreed upon scope. If the client is willing to pay extra for those change, then great!
…but when the client expects those changes as part the original quote — The answer is NO.
How I Keep Project Scope Creep From Creeping Up On Me?
- Develop Consistent Processes and Systems and Stick to Them
- Produce and Use a Project Brief
- Write and Follow Written Project Scope
- Manage your Client On-Boarding Process Consistently
- Being a Clear, Concise and Consistent Communicator
- Practice Consistent Client Relations Management
Start as You Mean to Go On
- Invest the time to build a WordPress Project Brief
- Developing an accurate Project Brief is as crucial as the execution of the project itself.
- An accurate Project Brief will save you and your client time and money
- If you are using subcontractors on the Project — a detailed specification is critical to their success
Ways to Prevent Common Profit-Eating Pitfalls
Probable Scope Creep Warning Signs…
The Clients Hair is on Fire!! —This is RUSH Job!!! —We have to get this done — YESTERDAY!!!
Another Developer or Creative Professional just fired them as a client.
Prescribed course of action…You are the Creative Professional…An Expert — That’s why they called you. Take control of the client and the project, or they will wear you out! If you get a ‘hinky feeling about a client — take a pass. If you go forward, follow your process. If the Hair-on-Fire Client is unwilling to follow your process — take a pass
BTW I usually insist on a very large retainer for the Hair-on-Fire clients, they are high-maintenance, be slow to follow instructions and will probably hassle you about payment…Just saying
Bad Brief = Loss of Time and Money
If you skip Client Discovery and Project Scope definition and start a project with an Incomplete (Bad) brief— one that is missing information, it will prevent you from moving forward on project development. You have to ask the client for new details and wait for to provide them. You’ll lose more time, thus money, adding and editing what should have been provided in the first place. Valued sub-contracts may become hesitant to work with you again – or charge a premium for the next gig — Costing YOU time and money
Saying Good-Bye Really Isn’t Hard To Do
If a client is not willing to take the time to carefully delineate the scope of their RUSH project — Wish them God-Speed and move on. Take a pass —even if you feel, I need another client this month…You do not need a client who will end up costing you money, peace of mind and professional relationships.
Scope Creep Doesn’t Just Wear You Out and Ding your Profit Margin
Project Scope Creep is bad for the client too
When a project is bid for thirty hours but Creeps up to a forty hour job, the work gets rushed, time set aside for code cleanup and testing is now gone and their WordPress Expert has lost enthusiasm for the job and is not interested in working with them again. Taking charge and staying in charge of the project is the best and highest service you can give to your client and to your own business. Professional project Management is a win-win for everyone.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
— Henry Ford
After Class Resources
I hope these class notes help. I have included a link to the class Slidedeck below. I’m sorry if the transfer from Keynote to PowerPoint format sometimes does odd things to the headers and some images. Deepti and I urge you to join and perhaps contribute to the Austin WordPress Tribe by volunteering to take notes for our wpauston.com website, present at WPATX meetups or helping with our annual WordCamp. You can always find the current class schedule at https://www.meetup.com/austinwordpress/ We look forward to seeing you at an Austin WordPress Meetup soon.
Follow Sandi Batik @sandi_batik / @WPATX / Contact me at: handsonwp.com / LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/hsandrachevalierbatik
Follow Nick Batik @nick_batik / @WPATX / Contact me at: pleiadesservices.com / LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholasbatik