One of the largest problems facing IT directors is scope creep. When the nature of a project shifts while it is being implemented, costs increase, deadlines slip, and project success becomes less likely. The root causes underlying the problem go beyond the IT department and into the company’s overall culture and relationship to IT. Addressing them is the key to managing the issue.
The Scope Creep Problem
Scope creep occurs when a project’s specifications grow after work has started on a project with approved specifications. Frequently, these changes get requested without a commensurate increase in budget or a shift in deadlines. This frequently puts the IT department in an untenable position, since it has two undesirable choices for how it can deal with the situation:
- Deliver the project late and over-budget due to the additional time and cost required to do the work, even though the necessary adjustments weren’t made to the project’s inputs. Doing this puts the IT department in the long-term position of having to support a larger and more complicated application without any of the necessary increases in its support budget.
- Say “no” and deliver the project without the requested changes.
The “No” Solution
Many IT departments manage the problem of scope creep by choosing the second option and simply say “No” to scope creep. The one exception to this would be to only allow the new features if adjustments can be made in the project’s budget and timeline.
Doing this has the benefit of allowing the project to finish on-time and on-budget. However, it also puts the IT department in the position of opposing what one of its internal customers supposedly needs. Given that many IT departments are already in an awkward position relative to the rest of the company, this solution can increase their isolation.
Going Beyond “No”
For IT departments, the solution to the issue is to work on the company’s culture. By realigning itself as a solution provider, it can increase the likelihood of a more collaborative project design process up front. This can reduce the risk of scope creep. At the same time, if IT is viewed as a collaborator, its requests for additional resources may also be viewed more favorably. Achieving this goal requires a change both of the IT department’s internal culture as well as of the culture of the company as a whole as it relates to information technology.