Site Overlay

How to Deal with Scope Creep

If they want cake, they shall have cake

“Scope creep” is a negative statement. It instills fear in the eyes of many web business owners and project managers. It is the moment where defenses are raised.

Scope creep is treated like a surprise attack when it really should not. Scope creep should be the most incredible piece of building a project for a client.

In a truly awesome article and video by WordPress guru Chris Lema — the man that inspired me to write this entire post — scope creep is treated like dessert at a restaurant.

Here, take a look at the video first and then come back to the post.

Scope Creep is POSITIVE

I don’t know about you, but I thought that Chris brought up a lot of really good points on handling scope creep.

As project managers, we are sometimes quick to raise our shields to new client suggestions.



Why are we restricting the imaginative boundaries of our clients? If they want to add said pricing table, why should we say “NO”? Everybody wins.

  1. You get an opportunity to add more work to your project and make more money
  2. Your client is excited about the site being built

Listen to what Chris is saying. Projects have no limits as long as they are managed correctly. I can go to Smokey Bones and grab a beer and some wings. OR… I can go and grab a big fat New York Strip with three appetizers and two desserts. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that everything has a price and an expectation.

If I stay for seconds and have my cake, a few things are known. One, I am going to be at the restaurant for an extended period of time. Two, my meal will cost more money. These expectations are clear, and my server is there to ensure that we remain informed and excited.

If a server, getting paid a few dollars an hour plus tips can carry this weight, would it be safe to assume that we as business owners can do the same on five, ten, or even one hundred thousand dollar projects?

Preparing for Scope Creep

To best prepare for scope creep, don’t handle scope creep as it happens. Be proactive.

In early conversation with your customer, explain the process of building the website in short form. When you build out your contract, make sure you go over the contract with the client. Inform them of the current payment schedule and discuss the work on the page.

Much like a restaurant explains how much extra certain substitutions or additions to an order will be, note to the client that additional work, while acceptable, might cause a delay in the release of the project and might incur an additional cost.

Get your customer healthily involved in the success of their new website.

Objections to the mentality

What point would my post serve if it was simply a hype train for Chris Lema’s work? Here are a couple quick counter-points to Chris’s analogies.

Projects are not restaurants

It’s the truth. Projects require a lot of work and communication between the team.

If I want a side of barbeque sauce with my caesar salad, a waiter isn’t going to question the decision. It might ruin the taste of the salad, but that is of no concern to the waiter.

You asked for it.

Projects and websites will have more moving parts and limitations, which is why it is imperative to set friendly boundaries early and often. “Mr. Customer, I would love to build that extra feature, but we now have to see what it will take to do so with a developer and/or designer”

People are not conditioned to projects

Probably the biggest problem I have with the analogy to the restaurant is the assumptions we make about restaurants.

Since we were little kids, most of us have gone to restaurants. We have spent decades learning the ins and outs of ordering, how pricing works, the process of ordering, all the way down to where to put our napkins while eating. WE KNOW THE ETIQUETTE.

With websites and many client projects, the client is completely green to the concept of what it takes to build and release a website or project of your sort.

Rather than argue with Chris, I want to add and say that again effective communication and expectation will prevent scope creep from being a negative experience. Teach the client how the process works so they understand why scope creep exists.

We are not bullies, we just have a process that we need to follow like everyone else

A taste of the familiar

In fact, sometimes familiarity with other service industries can pose as a detriment to scope creep and to the web process if not properly handled.

I recently had a long-standing client ask me why I couldn’t add a specific piece of functionality after they had changed elements of the site themselves. The client then proceeded to use the purchase of a car as an analogy to the experience of managing a website. Specifically, when they bought their car, they got a lifetime warranty. Obviously, their website had the same warranty and support.

While the changes were not covered, there was no lifetime warranty, and all of this was clearly written on the signed contract, I couldn’t really blame the client for feeling this way. As a project manager, more effective communication at the start of the project would have alleviated this moment.

What do you think?

The bottom line is this. Scope creep is a great and exciting element of any project, if it is handled properly from the start and communicated effectively.

Do you have any suggestions to bring to the table for scope creep?

Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Post in the comments section below and let’s start a conversation about scope creep. The most fun of conversations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *