Scope Creep and Gold Plating in Project Management
Every project has a budget, an expected finish date, deliverables, and risks. Agreed requirements and tasks create the scope of the project. Variations in the scope may cause problems such as delays, budget overruns and another kind of risks. Scope is the determination of what is included in and what is excluded from the project. In other words, scope is what a project will produce and what work and tasks must be performed to produce it. Scope statement, project documents, and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) give sufficient information about the project deliverables. Scope creep and Gold Plating terms refer to the modifications done in the scope of the project. Therefore, managing scope creep and gold plating is key for effective project scope management. PMP aspirants often mix these terms and find them difficult to understand. In this article, we will analyze the Scope Creep and Gold Plating terms by using real examples.
What is Scope Creep ?
If the products, services, and results of a project aren’t clearly defined at the beginning, there might be uncontrolled and unavoidable changes in the scope of a project. This can be expressed as scope creep.
The PMBOK Guide describes scope creep as “adding features and functionality (project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval”.
Scope creep can originate from:
• Interference from the client.
• An incomplete and unclear scope statement.
• Poor implementation of the change control system.
• Poor communication among the team members.
• Reasons external to organizations such as market conditions, regulatory requirements, or technological advancements.
Sometimes customers try to get extra work without paying or exploit the unclear scope against you. Scope creep has bad effects on projects and it must be avoided in all cases. Without any proper review and approval, changes may create problems in the next phases of a project. Therefore change control system and communication channels must be improved in order to avoid scope creep.
Managing scope creep is key for effective project scope management. Uncontrolled scope creep may result in project delays and cost overruns.
Scope Creep Example
Let’s assume that you were building a two-story house for the client. The client came to the site manager and asked him to change the parquet floor covering with thick marble. Site manager thought that this material was available in the storage area and the total cost was the same. But 2 months passed and project design engineer came to the worksite and inspected the effects of this heavier material to the columns. He recommended a reinforcement method and this caused cost overrun.
How to Avoid the Scope Creep ?
Below recommendations can be helpful for managing scope creep.
- Analyze the reasons for scope creep
- Assemble project status meetings
- Do not allow changes without approval
- Document all requirements and amendment requests
- Prepare a change control procedure
- Verify everything with your client and establish a direct communication channel with your client
- Prepare a complete scope statement.
- Keep your team in coordination and communication.
What is Gold Plating ?
Gold Plating is adding extra functions or features to the products intentionally which were not involved and defined in the original scope. In other words, Gold Plating is giving the customer more than what he/she originally asked for. Sometimes adding extra functions or features may be appreciated by the client. However, in some cases, the client may be unhappy to see the modified product because it is an unauthorized change.
In software development projects, gold plating is very common because team members want to show their abilities to their managers.
Following are a few causes of gold plating
• In order to prove his abilities to the project manager, a team member may add extra features to the products
• A project manager may add extra features to the products in order to win the top management’s approval or the client’s approval.
• Sometimes gold plating is performed to divert the attention of the client from the problems or defects in the product.
Gold plating mostly increases project costs and risks and customer’s expectations. When you work with the same customer in another project, he would expect extras related to the product. Therefore gold plating must be avoided for successful completion.
Gold Plating Example
Let’s assume that you are building a software program and your project manager comes to you and say that if you add some extra login security plug-ins, the client will be pleased. You also agree with him and start to add.
How Do You Deal With Gold Plating In Your Project ?
The project manager should have close communications with his/her team and never allow the team member to add any extra functions or features to the product without his/her approval. The Project Manager should be firm never give his/her team members complete autonomy. Also, the project manager should avoid gold plating.
Scope Creep and Gold Plating topics are very important for the PMP Certification exam. You may encounter at least one or more questions in the exam. Scope creep refers to the authorized changes that add features or functions to the product. Uncontrolled scope creep may result in project delays and cost overruns. On the other hand, Gold plating refers to intentionally adding extra features to the product that the customer may or may not be pleased. Both of them are unwanted project management practices that must be avoided. Keeping the project team in control, improving communication and monitoring project activities are helpful to avoid the impact of scope creep and gold plating.