Working in a presentation design agency one of the biggest challenges we face in our business is scope creep. Scope creep usually occurs when the original brief, creeps past the confines of its original goals and objectives.

Scope creep can have a number of negative effects on the business. An increased workload can lead to stress for the design team and a decline in the quality of work.  In some cases, it means going back to make changes to work already completed which means taking designers off new projects started, thus disturbing their creative flow.

Unless addressed early by the designer or project manger,  scope creep can mean spending more time doing more work but at the expense of profit. It is also adds to the difficulty of meeting project deadlines and in some cases it requires you to decline new projects. This added stress can lead to strained relationships with clients and between members of the sales and design team. At its worst, scope creep results in project in-completion and failure.

How do you spot scope creep creeping up on you?

The goal is to spot potential scope creep situations as early as possible. This will help you improve your relationship with your clients and keep your projects on track.  According to the PMBOK:

Scope creep is defined as adding features and functionality (project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.”

So how does scope creep happen? Lack of clear communication between the agency and client is the number one reason for scope creep. It’s imperative that you are clear about the expectations and outcome of the project. Once you have agreed on the scope of work, you can then create a formal quote for the client which clearly defines the deliverable’s or services provided under this agreement. This can however be a double edged sword as some clients will try take a ‘pinch’ out of each line item not understanding the ingredients that goes into a great presentation. However, if you provide an ambiguous quote or one were the boundaries are not clearly set you may find yourself creating something completely different to what was quoted for.

Having a clear road map and milestones helps to define the amount of time to be spent on each deliverable, this also sets an expectation on response times from the client and the agency, thus avoiding long drawn out projects which may mean a delay in payments and subsequent cash flow in the business.

5 Tips to Avoid Scope Creep:

Clear communication, organization, and planning at each phase of the project.

Set clear expectations on deliverable’s, timeline and financial arrangements, additional costs for work outside the scope, should be clearly defined prior to starting work.

Get sign off at each key deliverable.

Identify and agree to a specific completion date for the project. This is critical as you can refer back to it if your client wants to add more to the project, particularly if they are on a tight schedule with a hard stop.

Say No! to projects with unrealistic timelines or unclear deliverable’s. Yes, we are all in the business of making business. However, it’s difficult to put a price on an unhappy team and an unhappy client.

Try to find a good balance between being flexible with the client and sticking to the brief. If you can do this both you and the client can go away happy and nurture a lasting relationship.

Conor Hyland

Unlearning along the way.