Scope Creep and Gold Plating in Project Management

Scope Creep and Gold Plating

Scope Creep and Gold Plating -Scope Creep vs Gold Plating
Scope Creep and Gold Plating -Scope Creep vs Gold Plating

Scope Creep and Gold Plating in Project Management

Every project has deliverables, budget, expected finish time 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 other 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) project give sufficient information about the project deliverables. Scope creep and Gold Plating terms refer to the modifications done in the scope of project. They are very important topics for the PMP Certification Exam. PMP aspirants mostly mix these terms and find them difficult to understand. In this article, we will analyze 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 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 to you. Scope creep has bad effects to projects and it must be avoided in all cases. Without any proper review and approval, changes may create problems in later stages of a project. If scope creep is not controlled it may cause delays and budget overruns. Therefore change control system and communication channels must be improved in order to avoid scope creep.

If the scope creep is not controlled properly it may result in project delays and cost overruns.

Scope Creep Example

Let’s assume that you were building a two-storey house for the client. 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 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 to avoid scope creep.

  • Assemble project status meetings
  • Do not allow changes without approval
  • Document all requirements and ammendment 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 modificated 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 may add extra features to the products in order to win the top management’s approval or 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 with the product. Therefore gold plating must be avoided for a 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 to Avoid the Gold Plating

The project manager should have close communications with his/her team and never allow team member to add any extra function 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 adds 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 scope creep and gold plating.



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