Three easy ways to avoid scope creep in your next digital project.

Nov 25, 2013 | Marketing Strategy | 2 comments

Digital strategy can be a tough gig sometimes. On one hand, it’s your job to provide your client with guidance in a relatively unfamiliar area for them (the www world). On the other hand, there’s the age-old saying that the “customer is always right”.

Sometimes this creates a bit of a dichotomy.

I’m all for customer service, but when the customer is hiring you as an expert, sometimes they’re just not right. In fact, sometimes they’re wrong. :-O I’ll share a few reasons why it’s sometimes our jobs to set the customer straight – all in the name of a successful project and the prevention of scope creep.

Your business is your business. Online strategy is likely not.

Chances are that if you hired a digital agency or independent consultant you did so because you, as a business, do not specialize in websites, apps, e-commerce or related fields. Agencies and consultants are in the market because we do specialize in those things.

Solid digital strategy and execution doesn’t happen on accident. It takes quality people, teams and processes to make it happen. Like any other area of expertise, online strategic guidance also doesn’t happen over night.

My advice to non-digital businesses? Focus on what you do best and hire a digital agency or consultant for projects that you don’t have the expertise to handle yourself. This is especially true of small businesses but this goes for you medium to large companies, too. Your digital presence is a big deal. Make sure you do it right the first time.

Digital strategists as the voice of (online) reason.

Those that are not web or app-savvy often don’t understand what it takes to actually build functionalities on those platforms. All of those internal strategy sessions where you brainstormed ideas of what your website or app should do were super productive and strongly encouraged! However, when it comes to actually fleshing out how those features will work in-depth… well, that’s another can of worms, entirely.

If you’ve already got requirements defined, you’re a step ahead in the process, but requirements are really just the beginning.

A few questions to ask as you build your website or app:

  • Have you prioritized each feature based on defined strategic goals? Actually, have you defined your strategic goals to begin with? Unless your company has unlimited time and / or resources, chances are you won’t be able to build everything that was dreamt up during those discovery meetings.
  • Have you defined your primary and secondary user stories?
  • Have you built a technical specification for how features will be built and how 3rd party services will integrate with your site or app?
  • Do you have a quality assurance plan defined to make sure what you set out to build was actually what was built?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, you’re putting your project at serious risk of failure. Digital consultants often have the unique ability to look at things from the outside and without bias. It’s our job to reconcile the real strategy behind each project, define and prioritize (prioritization is key) functionality and align both strategy & functionality with the defined budget.

Avoid scope creep waste.

First, let’s define “scope creep” (from Wikipedia via Google’s web definitions):

definition of scope creep

Scope creep isn’t just something that project managers and agencies lose sleep over. Scope creep hurts the customer, too. If proper discovery occurs and the strategic priorities are defined up-front then scope creep, by its very definition, goes against those defined priorities and is waste.

Waste is what makes projects go over budget and beyond their deadlines. No one wants waste and the best way to avoid it is by thoroughly exploring (discovery), planning (project management) and defining (in the form of requirements and specifications) exactly what your project is and how it will be built. Without these necessary steps, you’re almost guaranteeing scope creep, waste and budget over-runs in your project.

The bottom line here is that digital experts, whether they be consultants-for-hire or digital agencies, play a very important role in the website and app development world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on your projects. A little investment up front could save you a lot of time and money in the end!

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.