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Understanding project scope and scope creep and how to avoid problems


The number one thing that will derail a website project isn’t internet trouble. It’s not issues with CSS, PHP and JavaScript. And it typically won’t be an issue with web hosting.

Instead, it’s scope creep.

Scope creep and the lack of understanding of project scope can bring a project to a halt. It adds unnecessary features and adds delays to a project that doesn’t need them. And in the end, sometimes the project doesn’t even launch, or the launch falls on its face.

So let’s avoid, shall we?

What is project scope?

Project scope is simply what the project is supposed to be. This lays out the goals of the project, the deliverables, the deadlines (for both party) and the boundaries of the project. In essence, it’s what the project will and won’t be.

Typically this is done towards the end of the discovery phase. At this point, the developer understands your problem and is developing a plan to help solve it. The scope, if done right, will be the guiding light and help everyone understand what is going to happen.

This keeps everyone on track and the project on time. So make sure this happens in your project.

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How can scope creep happen?

Scope creep occurs when there are continuous changes to the project scope, usually with the addition of features by the client. This happens very often when you and your developer don’t properly define what is being built and delivered. This can also happen when you tell the developer about features you want for site launch after development starts. (So if a developer pushes back against a feature idea, this is probably why.)

So why is this bad? Well, scope creep ultimately pushes back the launch date of the website. New features take time (and money) to build out properly. And if, for example, you want to add an e-commerce section that wasn’t in the original plan for the site, it can add anywhere from a day to a month of delays for the site.

It ought to go without saying, but this is bad. I’ve seen it happen a couple of times and it’s not fun. At some point it’s honestly just better to launch with the original idea and then iterate and add those new features in as they are built. Launching with something is better than not launching at all.

How can you avoid this?

So, just how do you avoid scope creep and delaying the launch of your website even longer? Well, honestly the answer is pretty simple. You create the project scope, both sides understand that scope and then you stick to that scope.

Before leaving the discovery phase, both sides should know what is being included in the website and what is going to be delivered and when. And both of you need to stick to that. This also helps cover you incase the developer falls short of something, but we won’t go into that scenario today.

Now, of course you’re probably going to get new ideas over the course of the website development. You’re going to suddenly have the ability to sell online. Or you’re going to hire a new person to blog for you. And you’re going to want those features add to your site.

And that’s perfectly fine, and you should tell your developer. But you and the developer should also understand that those new items should be added after the website is launched under a new project scope. And now you’ve avoided scope creep.

So during the process of developing your new website, just remember this: launching a site without those cool new things you thought of is much better than not launching a site when you need it to.

Scope creep is real, but if you stick to your project scope you’ll be perfectly fine in the end.

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