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Project Management

5 Tips for Preventing Project Scope Creep

To prevent scope creep on your projects, you want to follow these five steps to keep projects on time and in budget.


Have you ever managed a project where the final result was exactly the same as the blueprint that emerged from the planning stage? If you have, congratulations! You’ve probably got an ultra-profitable firm on your hands. For the rest of us, change orders are a fact of life. The challenge for professionals is making sure these project modifications don’t end up causing scope creep and hurting your bottom line. 

What is the Scope of a Project? 

A project’s scope refers to all the individual tasks, activities and deliverables required to complete the project. Your project’s scope is defined at the beginning of the project planning process and should be captured in your roadmap or brief. If all goes well, your project will stay on track and on budget. However, scope creep often pops up and if you’re not prepared, it can cause delays and result in going over budget for your project. 

What is Scope Creep? 

Scope creep happens when the asks and deliverables exceed the pre-set scope. Scope creep gets ugly when changes happen without any control procedures such as change requests. These changes affect your project’s budget, costs, schedule, resource allocation, and can even affect your milestones and goals.  

Scope creep often occurs when new requirements are added by clients or other stakeholders after you’ve already begun working on your project. If these changes are not properly reviewed, your team is suddenly overburdened and expected to complete more tasks and milestones yet with the same resources and in the same amount of time as planned for the original scope.  

If you do get changes approved, you could still end up with a never-ending project due to new requirements constantly popping up and demanding your time for new changes to be implemented.  

To help prevent scope creep, here are five tips to deal with this common issue before it negatively impacts your project’s profitability: 

Focus on Time Tracking 

An ominous time budget report is usually the first indication that trouble might be stirring with a project. Getting in the habit of looking at these reports on a consistent basis puts you in a position to get ahead of a potential problem. 

One of the best ways to make sure you stay in budget and avoid scope creep is by having your employees track their time on a project. And when we say track their time, we mean track everything. Meetings, phone calls, and small new tasks here and there build up and before you know it, your team is spending a lot of time on other work and you’re getting further and further away from the completion of your project.  

Time tracking software, such BQE CORE’s time tracking feature, is the easiest way to track time and prevent scope creep. If you’re manually tracking time or using outdated software, this is how scope creep creeps up on you before you even realize it. 

Instead, automated time tracking software gives you the insights you need, plus the ease of use for employees, so you never miss a second knowing how much time is being spent on a project, and you can quickly see if too much time is being wasted on new tasks.  

Pay Attention to Project Start and End Dates 

You probably have deadlines for every one of your major projects memorized. A significant component of finishing a project on time, however, is beginning the project on time. 

For purposes of preventing scope creep, entering a project’s starting and ending dates can help you quickly decide at some point in the future if it’s feasible to accept a change order. Can you add another phase to a project and still meet the client’s original deadline? 

Stay on top of your projects and know when you’re getting close to the deadline and how much time you have left. This will help you know if you can accept any new changes that come your way. 

Agree to Specific Steps When a Change Order is Requested 

During a project’s planning phase, you and your client should agree on a series of pre-defined steps if either party proposes a change order. Without these agreed-upon procedures, time and money will likely be wasted sorting out a modification’s details in the middle of a project.  

In a worst-case scenario, you and your firm may spend many hours on a new phase of a project without a complete understanding of what modifications the client wants and be forced to write down a significant portion of the change order’s overall cost. 

Don’t Let Your Clients Get Too Out of Hand 

You want to give your clients the exact project they envisioned. However, high-maintenance clients can also play a major role in scope creep. When they send documents to you late, don't respond to questions and other inquiries or—on the other end of the spectrum—bug your employees too often. Clients usually don't realize it's affecting the final outcome in a negative way. 

Practicing common-sense client management can usually clear up many of these client hindrances. Are they late sending you information you need to start a project? You might want to consider billing them for a rush fee. Calling your office five times a day? Bill them for phone meetings and send it in an invoice separate from the agreed-upon project fee. 

Many times, you can change client behavior with one or two unexpected invoices for time they weren’t prepared to pay. Just remember, your firm’s time is valuable.  

Easily Receive On-time Payments with ePayments 

Speaking of invoices, scope creep comes down to ultimately doing work that you don’t get paid for. If there’s one guaranteed way to prevent scope creep from ruining a project, it’s to make sure your clients know that you expect to be paid on time, every time, for each invoice you send out. 

And if you don’t get paid on time? Your team halts all work on that project (the client knows this will happen because you went over it during the planning phase). 

If you want to make sending and receiving payments easier for both you and your clients, skip old school check mailing and instead opt for a smart ePayments system such as BQE ePayments. BQE ePayments allows your clients to pay invoices electronically right away through our built-in integrated system. With top security, you and your clients can feel confident in each transaction. Plus, you never have to wait on a check to arrive in the mail, they never have to deal with the hassle of sending one, and you can move your money straight into your account, so you’re paid and ready to go.  

Prevent Scope Creep with BQE CORE  

These five steps are just a few of the ways to mitigate scope creep and get paid for all the time you and your team spend on a project. 

When you use firm management software like BQE CORE, you have smart project management, time and expense tracking, invoicing, ePayments, and more right at your fingertips on your all-in-one dashboard. Never be in the dark about scope creep again when you have full control over your projects.  

Scope creep is one of the most common project management risks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for it. Try a free demo of BQE CORE today and help keep your projects on time and on budget.  

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