Scope Creep and Gold Plating

Have you ever faced improvements that were implemented to the project without prior confirmation? Or features were offered additionally without a request but just to consume the budget? Let’s define how not to allow Scope Creep and Gold Plating on a project.

Hey Crizpers, today I am proposing to give a precise look at the project scope and flow and to review details that could possibly have not been considered before or which have not got enough attention yet. Look at the scope carefully and define whether all the features in it were requested? How often do you face Scope Creeps? Is there any Gold Plating present? What do you do with them? Now we are going to detect, process and approach unapproved changes. 

Crawling Inside

Is your team working according to the requirements, or there is a possibility that someone has decided to implement an improvement without a confirmation just because he or she thinks that will work better? 

Scope Creep is unapproved change that was added to the project. Usually this is something minor, for instance, a developer while working on the modification has decided to put an additional button or has changed the font color thinking this would be better for the product. 

Unapproved Changes

In most cases the Scope Creep is added with good intentions and without any second thoughts. This action could be driven by the inspiration or a person was really fond of work. There is a possibility the improvement could be very timely and accurate, and could finally make the product better. However, this is something that was not confirmed and approved and could lead to problems.

Why Scope Creep is Bad

Imagine yourself a customer or a product owner. You have an idea and a certain budget you are ready to spend on it. You found an agency or a team, agreed on the work to be done and expecting to get something you have agreed on.

When the time comes, you are getting a product which has some extras implemented that you were not aware of or you do not want them. Besides, this unpleasant surprise usually costs more than you were willing to pay initially. Will you still be loyal? Would this impact your intentions to work with that team further?

Scope Creep leads to issues with your customer. It impacts the project scope, it impacts the project budget, two KPI ales are hurt but this disease. As a result, this puts a shade to your relationships with the customer and you could be considered as not reliable resource.

Worse, if a creep was not caught by a Project Manager during the scope verification and was addressed by the customer as an error in a product. 

Another level of Scope Creep is when the creep was defined and a manager has decided to sell this change with other proposals to consume more budget and to eat the funds if they were not used initially.

Golden Plateau

Gold Plating is a phenomenon when a team continue working on a product after the initial requirements were met, modifying and enhancing it. If the team still has time and funds, they are utilizing them on their own discretion willing to surprise a customer. ‘Professional’ gold-platers could do this even if the project is already running out of funds and all dead-lines were missed.

Obviously, this intention to improve the product will not be met positively, thus this is a false belief. 

Again, we are facing an impact on budget and scope, and sometimes on time. This impacts negatively to the relationships with the customer and even to the company reputation.

Scope Creep VS Gold Plating

What is the difference between these two troubles or are they two facets of the same essence?

The general differentiation is the time when things are happening. Scope Creep is usually occurring during the delivery stage when the product is being created. These are the changes that are crawling inside the approved list of features and in the determined functionality. For instance, a carpenter was making new chairs and has decided to add armrests as chairs with armrests could become more comfortable. 

Gold Plating

Gold Plating happens when the project requirements are closed, however, the team feels that it is not good enough and to improve it they are allowed to consume the funds left. Imagine, you have hired painters to paint the ceiling. The work is done, but not all budget was burned out. The team has decided that with a molding your ceiling will look more presentable. And they are adding moldings without a prior confirmation with you.

Besides, Scope Creep is usually a single-person individual decision, while Gold Plating is something the whole team or several people are involved in.

Detecting a Mole

For the Gold Plating it is simple. Just do not do more than mentioned in the requirements. Verify the scope and transfer the project. The customer should use his chance to decide what to do with funds that are left after a project. This is his or her money and it could be a customer has other ideas of investment but adding more features. Besides, the time that is consumed for implementing these changes could be utilized more efficiently.

As for the Scope Creep, this could be a bit tricky. Initially, it is about building a team culture. This should be transparent that you are not doing more or differently than it was agreed.

Further, we could focus on the specifications clarity and on eliminating miscommunication. Sometimes Scope Creep is a decision that was made due to the lack of information or ambiguity. Make sure the tasks descriptions are straight forwards and pure. 

Scope Creep Spies

Additionally, implement in the team guidelines the necessity to clarify any ambiguous situations. Thus if a colleague is not sure about the solution, the action here should be to ask and to discuss.

Usually a creep could be caught easily during the quality assurance steps as finding mismatches with the requirements is a part of the quality check process. Nevertheless, work precisely on the scope verification. Catch all spies before the demo.

How to Approach

There are several stages of approaching unapproved changes on a project. Initially this is about stating the ground rules. We should clearly position the approach to the requirement and scope and this should be obvious for the team that we are delivering a product that complies with the customer’s requirements and the project scope of work.

Further on, make sure the team is aware of what to do if they do not understand a task or if a specification is not explicit enough. The right thing is to ask and to discuss, add this to the ground rules list too.

Improve the communication. Check if the requirements are got correctly and you know exactly what the customer wants. Also, improve the internal communications safeguarding the information transaction to the team. As a Project Manager is usually a link between the customer and the team, minimize the possibility of miscommunication.

Dive into the quality planning and in the scope verification activities. This is another link in the project chain to detect the moles.

Be honest and transparent with the customer to build trustful relationships and to eliminate negative flavors in your collaboration.

Do not allow extras that were not approved with the customer. Gold Plating is not about gifts, but about budget and time consumption. 

Have you ever detected Gold Plating on your projects? Let me know how you approach Scope Creep?