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How To Handle Project Scope Creep with Agency Clients

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It comes in many forms and names. Whether you call it scope creep, requirement creep, function creep, or feature creep, it’s a challenge that all agencies and corporates have faced over the years.

Scope creep can be tricky to handle. It’s a key reason behind many project failures, as the scale of the work expands beyond what can be reasonably accomplished within the original budget or deadline.

It may start as a simple request for an extra feature or design layout, but before you know it, the entire project has continued expanding and growing far beyond what was originally scoped.

Being prepared for this to happen (and taking some precautionary steps) can make it a simple topic to address later down the line. Your goal should be to stay in control of project scope, prepare a proper plan, and follow it through the process. Here are some simple steps to keep you on track from start to finish!

Set Project Boundaries Before You Start

The value of setting clear expectations up-front can’t be over-emphasised. You want to be working in partnership with your client as you build their product, and having a clear set of project boundaries can make the whole process enjoyable from start to finish.

As the project manager, it’s your job to keep expectations and boundaries clear. Be as clear and as specific with the boundaries as you can when outlining the project features, requirements, and the amount of work you’re going to put in. Set goals and objectives for each stage of the project development as well.

Whenever a client tries to ask for additional features or extra work, show your project agreement and remind your client of the original scope of the project the client had agreed upon.

Sign A Contract

No matter how big or small the budget or scope, you should always get your project boundaries and requirements written down on paper. Clearly state the goals, objectives, and requirements of the project in your contract agreement. Define what sort of work you’re going to do and what you’re willing not to do.

A solid contract agreement should include:

  • A project description
  • The length of the contract
  • Your payment terms
  • Non-disclosure terms
  • Your rights and responsibilities
  • Termination clause
  • Disclaimers

If this is something you’re new to, you can always find a template and customize it to fit your brand, firm, or agency. PandaDoc is a great platform you can use to find professional contract agreement templates.

Don’t be afraid of getting a contract in place. It’s something that your client will expect, and when crafted well, ensures that both parties have their interests clearly represented and documented.

Set Limits For The Project

If you use a per-project pricing model in your firm, it’s best to create a set of limits for each of your projects and negotiate them with your clients before you sign a contract.

You should set a limit on the number of free revisions you’re willing to do during the project, to ensure that your client understands what they’re getting for the project budget. Also be sure to make clear what any additional revisions or work is likely to cost.

If you use an hourly or a day rate, inform your clients of the estimated time for the project and let them know that extra requests aren’t included in your initial estimation. This part usually goes in the contract agreement document as well.

While having limits in place is key, it’s also perfectly fine to do a small amount of extra work to surprise and delight your clients. It’s a great way to build long-term relationships with clients and deliver work beyond their expectations, as long as you’re clear about your limits.

Communicate With Your Client

“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary for success.” James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney stores.

Regular, early communication can be great a cure for many arguments and disappointments. If you keep your clients regularly updated on your progress, the goals you’ve completed so far, and whether or not you can meet the deadlines, there will be less chance for scope creep. And if you do get to that point, both you and your client will understand why the project is expanding in scope (and have plenty of notice).

Always listen to what your client has to say. Understand their expectations and desired outcome, and be sure to prioritise the project in a way that delivers on their key requirements. If a project expands in scope because of additional requests from the client, that’s a situation that can be easily solved. If it’s blowing out because of your own additions and changes, that’s an issue you’ll have to deal with internally.

Handling a Change Order

If you’ve put these initial measures in place, when a change order comes in for a project, you’re well placed to handle it with ease. With a firm foundation for what the original project scope was, you can have an open and honest conversation around what additional work is needed, and what the extra budget requirement will be.

It’s completely normal for project scope and requirements to shift as you work through a product development process. If you’ve shown throughout that you’re capable of delivering quality work, you can have confidence that it’s in everyone’s best interests to scale the project in a sustainable way.

It can certainly happen that mid-project, you find that it’s spiraling into a much larger commitment than you initially anticipated. This is where a company like Mayven can help. Tap into a team of talented remote developers to help lighten the load on your team, expand the scope of a project successfully, and still deliver on time.

posted by David Appleyard

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