During a web development project, it’s common for additions to pop up or to want to make changes to what was originally discussed. As a Project Manager and a self-diagnosed “people pleaser”, it takes every part of me not to respond with a quick “no problem!” whenever this situation occurs. However, scope changes can quickly start to add up, causing your project to miss deadlines, go over budget, or both! This article shares 5 things you can do to prevent scope creep before and during a web development project.
What Is Scope Creep?
Scope creep is when a project keeps adding or changing its required deliverables, causing a negative impact on budget, timeline, resources, and customer satisfaction. Scope creep usually occurs when a project’s deliverables are not clearly defined at the start, but following these steps helps us eliminate the possibility of your project growing out of control.
Start with a Contract
This may seem like the most common-sense rule of the bunch, but having a defined contract that clearly lays out your project’s deliverables is needed before you begin any type of work. This contract will provide you an exact layout of what to expect during the project, from timeline to total cost, and it will make managing the scope easier by having written-down deliverables. Our web development projects go through four specific phases – Discovery, Design, Development, and Deployment. BuildThis contracts usually include clear-cut deliverables for each phase. Once the contract is signed and approved, you can then use it as a reference to see what deliverables and functionalities were agreed upon.
Create a Timeline
Once the contract is approved, creating and sticking to a project timeline is the next step in combating scope creep. With written deliverables for each phase of the project, you can work with your project team to assign tasks based on those deliverables, and set project milestones for each phase. Not only does creating a timeline help you stay on track of your due dates, but it also gives you milestones and dates to look forward to, which will keep everyone engaged throughout the process! This is also a great way for the project team to manage its pipeline when there are overlapping projects.
Set up a Kickoff Call
Once you have approved the scope of work and timeline, having a kickoff call between your stakeholders and our project team will be your next step. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and gives you a chance to bring up any concerns or difficulties you have to begin. At BuildThis, we use a Kickoff Deck, which includes slides which outline each phase of the project, as well as the proposed timeline. We also include visuals to display client involvement for each step of the process. This gives clients an idea of what is needed from them and when and also highlights key deadlines that need to be met to make sure the project stays on track. Outlining each party’s roles and responsibilities from the start will help keep the project on track, as planned.
Thorough Functionality Discovery
One of the biggest challenges in properly scoping a web development project is figuring out all of the functionalities that will be needed to accomplish your website’s goal. Website functionalities can be thought of as the actions your users take or perform on your website. The complexity of these things can be easily overlooked early on and is often a driver for scope creep later on in the project. Even a basic contact form requires information like field validation, confirmation messages, and email notifications. It’s not only important to pinpoint early on what functionalities are needed for your project, but it’s also important to make sure all of the details are discussed and decisions are made before development begins. Giving yourself time in the discovery phase to ask questions will also allow you to consider multiple options and time to weigh the pros and cons of each route, ultimately helping you make decisions that you feel more confident in and making you less likely to change your mind down the road!
Communication & Documentation
Despite all else, if the client and project teams are not properly communicating throughout the project, we are almost guaranteed to encounter scope creep. Internal communication between project members is key to make sure we all stick to the timeline, and communication between the project managers and client stakeholders is needed to ensure everyone is in the loop and aware of project progress. Here are a few ways we help ensure clear communication throughout a web development project:
- Use a project-specific communication channel (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) that includes all members of the project team
- Have formal “handoff” meetings between each project phase to make sure any questions between team members are ironed out.
- Send out project recap emails at the end or start of each week, including what was completed that week, what the next steps are, and what deliverables or assets are still needed from the client team. This recap also includes the estimated and total time worked for each phase of the project, giving you an idea of if your project is on time and on budget.
- Document all communication and meetings throughout the project. This not only allows you to reference things that were discussed weeks or even months prior, but it also allows everyone to share the same set of notes, ensuring you’re all interpreting things correctly over a call of meeting.
- Keep a “Future Enhancements” log. Trying to stay within the scope, budget, and timeline of an existing project doesn’t mean that things can’t be worked on down the road. If an idea comes up but the resources aren’t there to include it in the current project, write it down! A “Wish List” is a great way for you to organize your priorities and makes it easy for you to circle back when the time is right.
Scope creep can turn a web development project into a frustrating experience for everyone involved. Good communication paired with clear and thorough documentation will help keep your project on time and on budget.