Phrase of the week: Scope Creep

Scope creep (also called focus creep, requirement creep, feature creep, function creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence, and thus, should be avoided.

Typically, the scope increase consists of either new products or new features of already approved product designs, without corresponding increases in resources, schedule, or budget. As a result, the project team risks drifting away from its original purpose and scope into unplanned additions. As the scope of a project grows, more tasks must be completed within the budget and schedule originally designed for a smaller set of tasks. Thus, scope creep can result in a project team overrunning its original budget and schedule.

If the budget and schedule are increased along with the scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term “scope creep” is not used.

Scope creep can be a result of:

  • disingenuous customer with a determined value for free policy
  • poor change control
  • lack of proper initial identification of what is required to bring about the project objectives
  • weak project manager or executive sponsor
  • poor communication between parties