Project Management: Avoid Work Scope Creep!

Congratulations! You’ve just got a new client for an exciting project that is going to be fun and profitable. You carefully discuss the work with her and she sends in a down payment.

BANG! You are off and running!

The following week, you are happily working on this exciting project and your phone rings. It is your great new client…wanting to make a slight change to the project. Hmmm…

Being the wonderful and oh-so-easy-to-work with consultant that you are, you agree, hang up the phone, and get back to work.

A couple of days later, the phone rings. It’s your {AHEM} great new client again with a “few more ideas for changes.”

“Well, okay,” you agree, somewhat reluctantly, and hang up the phone. Now, you have to go back and revise some of your work to date and your original estimate no longer covers the scope of work. Your new and exciting project just officially became a stressful time suck that won’t be such a great moneymaker.

Yes, it’s the Dread Work Scope Creep. {B-horror film sound effects kick in here with a woman’s scream at seeing the monster}

Does this sound familiar? If you – like many consultants – aren’t managing the change process properly, the result will be:
long hours
inadequate compensation
missed deadlines
an unhappy client
an unhappy YOU
Well, there is hope. Here are some tips to help you manage those “little” changes to keep them from growing into the monster project with no end in sight:

Create a Contract: Ever heard the expression contracts keep friends? Well, it’s true. Your written agreement should describe what you doing for this specific project, what each party is responsible for (deliverables), and how much it will cost. Also, make sure to include a line that explains costs for additional services, revisions, meetings, and so on that are requested by the client and are outside the scope of the agreed-upon project. Both parties should sign this BEFORE the onset of the project.

Communicate Changes: When your client calls asking for changes, make a note of the conversation. Then, write them down and e-mail or fax them to your client. Make sure you are clear about how this affects the project budget and/or deadlines. If it is a new client, you may want to consider a follow-up call to ensure they understand how their request will impact the project.

Don’t Overcommit: Don’t say “yes” just because you are afraid to say “no.” It is perfectly acceptable to tell your client “it won’t work.” Make sure to follow up with a valid explanation and tell them what you are willing to do. If your client doesn’t respect you, your abilities, and your time constraints, he or she is not a client you want to keep.

By managing your work change process effectively, you will avoid the Dreaded Work Scope Creep {Horror flick scream again}. This will help ensure your projects and client relationships are profitable, pleasant, and manageable.

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