A few weeks ago, I hired a moving company to help me move out of my condo. When I set up the job over the phone, I just told them that I had a few boxes and pieces of furniture that I needed to move from Point A to Point B. They gave me an estimate that sounded reasonable, and I hired them. On the day of my move, they arrived on time and quickly loaded my boxes and furniture. Since they were making such excellent progress, I decided to give them more boxes to move and got them to pack some unfinished boxes.
It was one of my easiest moves. Nothing was damaged. The movers were terrific. Their work was impeccable. Then it came time to settle the bill. The invoice was 50% higher than the original estimate. How did this happen? I questioned the movers. They explained that the original estimate only included the few boxes and pieces of furniture that I mentioned during the original call. On the day of my move, I added more boxes and furniture and got them to help me pack additional boxes. In short, I scope creeped my movers! In the end, we compromised and settled on a price that was fair for both of us. But how could we have avoided my surprise at the final invoice? What could we have changed about the entire process to make the original scope of work clearer and the change in scope more obvious? How does my moving experience relate to my everyday job of helping customers solve business problems with technology?
Here are five surefire ways to keep scope creepers like me at bay.
- Understand Goals and Priorities: Ask your customer to prioritize price, schedule, and services/features. Ensure your customer understands the tradeoffs necessary to get their requested services and features at their specified price and schedule.
- Simple is Better: Woody Guthrie said it best. “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.” There are always multiple ways to provide a customer the requested service or feature. What is the easiest way that fits their price and schedule constraints?
- Communicate Clearly: Documentation is our friend. After understanding the customer’s goals and priorities, explaining the tradeoffs, and identifying the simplest solution, document your agreement and the underlying assumptions. In addition to documenting your scope agreement, also take the time to document how you will handle a change in scope.
- Escalate: Keep the person who provided the original estimate involved in oversight of the delivery. If confusion or disagreement arises, bring that person into the conversation.
- Just Say No: If you follow the steps above and your scope creeper persists, be proactive and tell them no. Revisit the original agreement, the communication of that agreement, the process to address scope changes, and the escalation measures. Always be polite but explain that you can stick to your original scope or modify your agreement to address this change in scope, but you can’t change your scope without changing your original agreement.