The Project Manager’s Role in Controlling Scope Creep

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17th Apr, 2023
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The Project Manager’s Role in Controlling Scope Creep

Managing the project scope is one of the most important responsibilities of the project manager according to PMBOK® guide.  Similarly, according to PMI’s guide to business analysis, the responsibility of managing product scope lies with the business analyst, with some amount of overlooking required from the project manager.

The knowledge and capability of managing project scope are thus important elements of a project manager’s day to day tasks and an important knowledge area for anyone preparing for the PMP or CAPM® exam. Consider enrolling in a PMP certification exam prep course.

What Constitutes Project Scope?

PMBOK® guide refers to scope as the project’s boundaries. It defines the work that will be done during the project lifecycle.  The project’s boundaries are defined with respect to specific project goals and objectives, milestones, deadlines and project deliverables, tasks to be performed by the Project Managers while managing a scope creep and resources required and the relevant project costs.

Project scope

What is Scope Management?

Scope Management entails a set of processes and activities required to effectively manage project scope from start to finish. This includes activities to define project scope and relevant parameters, SLAs in managing scope, planning scope management, controlling project scope elements defined on a daily basis, managing changes up until delivering the project and reporting on project scope. It helps project managers to allocate the correct amount of work and resources required to complete a project successfully.

scope management


What Can Go Wrong in case of Scope Creep?

Uncontrolled growth in project scope at any point after the project has begun is known as scope creep. Scope creep has a negative effect on time, cost, and resources of the project and is a result of uncontrolled additions to the scope of the project outside of Change Management.     

Scope creep can occur when a project scope is not properly defined, documented or controlled; it is also known as function creep, feature creep, requirements creep and more metaphorically as “kitchen sink syndrome”.   This product scope creep will have adverse effects on project constraints such as time, cost, resources, and quality, and requires to be managed properly.

What Can Go Wrong in case of Scope Creep


Scope creep may happen naturally. The client may want more features for the same price where the project manager may just bow down to keep the customer happy. Similarly, the implementation team themselves may add more scope by trying to gold-plate or when they try to make things more visual by prototyping.  Project scope may increase knowingly or unknowingly. This is a guide for managing a scope creep in project management.

Importance of Controlling/Avoiding Scope Creep

It is important for project management professionals to avoid scope creep in order to increase the chances of delivering a project on time and on budget. Delivering a project on time will depend on how many features are taken up for each milestone or iteration and how the team can work efficiently to achieve the same.

Importance of Controlling/Avoiding Scope Creep

Managing scope is thus an important competency for a project manager. Predictive projects may follow formal Change Control Processes through a Change Control Board (CCB) to validate and bring in changes. Adaptive agile projects can be more complex with the requirements needed to be groomed and managed as a product backlog.

Tips for Project Managers for Controlling Scope Creep


Tips for Project Managers for Controlling Scope Creep

1) Understand Project Goals and Objectives

It is extremely important for the project manager to be aware of the client’s vision for the project and for the product. The project manager must understand how the project objectives tie-up with the corporate vision and strategy. The old adage goes, as ‘Something well begun is half done’. Thus a good understanding of what the client wants will help define what and how to manage.

2) Understand Solution Requirements

Project managers of yesteryears considered that the understanding of the functional and non-functional requirements is not their problem. But now,  it is imperative and the project managers understand the requirements and how they are related to goals and objectives so that they can plan the work and manage it properly. Understanding of requirements will allow the project manager to decompose requirements down to task level, identify milestones and resources and thus assist in keeping the project on track.

3) Stay on Track

From day one of the project, the project manager must manage project scope and take necessary steps to avoid scope creep. The project manager tracking the requirements and change requests properly will assist in this case.

4) Devise Solid Change Management Process

A well-defined process to identify., evaluate, approve and report on scope changes in a formal change management process is an imperative part of scope management in order to contain scope creep.     The project manager is responsible for defining and enforcing the change management process as well as educating team members on the importance of change management for the health of the project. In predictive or in adaptive projects, it is always good to limit the authority to request and to approve change requests.

5) Learn to Say “No” 

The project manager should be able to say “No” to unreasonable or unrealistic requests for an additional scope on the project.  The project manager must be able to explain to the requester as to why a certain request is rejected with proper facts. Team members should not entertain undocumented requested for project changes as Gold-plating by team members should be avoided at all costs. 

While it is always difficult to say “No” and reject changes from clients and project stakeholders, the Project Manager needs to rely on their negotiation and facilitation skills in order to ensure a positive outcome for their projects while maintaining active stakeholder engagement.

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What’s Next?

Being a project manager, frequently cutting down on scope creep determines the scope changes and how well you are managing your resources. The responsibility of scope management and controlling scope creep is on the shoulders of the Project Manager working with the Business Analyst on the project. Become a successful project manager by enrolling in the best PMP course available.   


Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin

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