Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma in IT

(Unit 8 - LO2) Scope creep and discovery

Be able to initiate and plan projects

Scope creep and discovery

When managing a project, sometimes the project manager works additional items into the project plan. Items detrimental to the project are called "scope creep." Those that benefit the project are called "scope discovery." How can you tell whether something is scope creep or scope discovery?

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep occurs when large, irrelevant and unplanned changes take over a project. For example, if my project is to bake chocolate chip cookies, scope creep occurs when I decide to add butterscotch chips, peanut butter, and pecans to my batter. What I wind up with is cookies that are over-packed with flavor and where those flavors potentially clash.Scope creep needs to be carefully managed and should be avoided if at all possible.

Scope creep is often seen as an inevitable part of project management. Naturally, at the outset of any project undertaking, the project scope statement covers certain specifications, but as the project progresses the statement will become more refined and will contain tasks that were unforeseen. The question arises - is this addition to the scope of the project really scope creep, or is it something else, scope discover?

What is Scope Discovery?

Scope discovery can be defined as additions to the project scope that are helpful rather than harmful. For example, if in my project to bake chocolate chip cookies I add walnuts to the mix, I might be said to be enhancing the cookie. Rather than contributing to a bloating project, scope discovery adds tasks and milestones that are crucial to the success of the project. Scope discovery involves further defining the project scope and tasks in a way that enhances the project.

When Might Scope Creep Really be Scope Discovery?

Sometimes your stakeholders will write the project scope. At the outset of the project, they might only have a vague idea of what will be required of the project. As the project is planned, you might discover that important facets were left out. When you bring this to the attention of the stakeholders, they think of further requirements for the project scope. This goes back and forth a few times. When are these additions scope creep and when are they scope discovery? Here is a general rule of thumb:

  • If additions to the project scope refine and make the project scope more clear and less vague, most likely you have a case of scope discovery.
  • If additions to the project scope make the project scope less clear, more vague and more ambiguous, most likely, you have a case of scope creep.

An enlarging scope is a natural part of the project process. You should not panic any time your project's requirements enlarge. Instead, ask yourself whether you have a true case of scope creep. For example, you are working on a software project where the stakeholders defined the project scope as being, "Create a software program that allows users to track time." The following stipulation arises during the project planning process, "The software should track time any time a file is opened on a computer." This stipulation further defines the project scope, making it a case of scope discovery. If, on the other hand, when you submit this to the stakeholders they say, "Wouldn't it be nice if the program also tracked everything someone ate in a day, and their calories expended," then you may have a case of scope creep.

A final thought: scope creep is often a result of poor communication at the outset of the project. Before beginning the project completion phase, be sure that you have the scope pinned down as close as possible to the intentions of the stakeholders. This is one of the best ways to avoid the negative aspects of scope creep.

LO2 Assessment activities

Below are four suggested assessment activities directly linked to the pass and merit criteria for LO1 to help with assignment preparation.

  • P3:  Complete the documentation for the initiation phase for an identified project
  • P4:  Develop a project plan for the identified project
  • M2: Carry out and document a phase review of the project plan
  • D2:  Create a Business Case to support an identified project

This learning outcome is about learners carrying out the initiation phase and project planning phase for an identified project. It is important that the scenario and/or project that learners are provided with allows them to meet the assessment criteria in a manner that reflects working practices.

LO2 Be able to initiate and plan projects

P3: Learners must carry out the initiation phase for an identified project taking into consideration the bullet list in the teaching content under initiation phase.
They should then prepare a PID which must include, as a minimum, the stakeholders, clients and target audience (end user), scope definition, purpose, objectives, deliverables, timescales and structure. The evidence will be the completed PID.

P4: Learners must develop a project plan for an identified project. The project plan can be a follow on from the evidence presented for P3 and D2. The project plan must include the items in the bullet list in the teaching content. Although learners may not be “working with budgets”, they should still take into consideration that ‘time is money’ and therefore cost in potential value of time of those involved in the project as well as the cost of other physical resources that may be used.

M2: Learners must carry out a phase review of the project plan. The phase review must show that learners have reviewed every section of the project plan to ensure that the project can progress to the execution phase. They will need to show what they have reviewed and the results of their review. This will then be concluded by including the justification for the continuation of the project. This may also include where learners have identified that changes have to be made, etc. The evidence will be the documented review of the planning phase of the project.

D2: Learners are required to create a business case for an identified project. It can be linked to the project for which they carried out the initiation phase. The business case must give clear justification as to why the project should be carried out i.e. the reasons and why. They could present the evidence as a report or as a presentation with detailed speaker notes or a presentation of them delivering their business case to an audience.