Mudassir Iqbal

Scope Creep and Gold Plating

Changes are inevitable, you can’t run from changes on the project. Changes are also by nature not bad, but if we don’t manage them properly, i.e add them to the scope of the project through a proper approval cycle they may even cost you a project. Once properly evaluated and approved, the approved change request will cause a change in Baselines.

Scope: The extent of what a project will produce (product scope) and the work needed to produce it (project scope).  It is the sum of the products, services, and results produced in a project. It is often documented using a scope statement and a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which are approved by the project sponsor. *

Scope Creep

Scope creep also known as requirement creep in project management refers to any variations and consistent or uncontrolled growth in a project scope at any level once the project starts. This often occurs when the scope of a project is not accurately demarcated, documented, or measured. Scope creep explains how project requirements knowingly or unknowingly tend to increase over a project’s lifespan.

Scope creep: Adding additional features or functions of a new product, requirements, or work that is not authorized (i.e., beyond the agreed-upon scope). *

For instance, once the project starts out as a single deliverable later becomes five. Likewise, a project that initially started with three important features now has ten. Or halfway through a project that requires the clients’ change and encouraging a reassessment of the project needs.

Scope creep is frequently caused by key project stakeholders modifying requirements, at times from internal miscommunication and misunderstandings.

To avoid the Scope Creep, you should be making sure that you have done enough hard work during a requirement gathering session like making sure that you have an exhaustive list of stakeholders, you have a proper communication management plan in place and you are engaging with stakeholders in short periodic intervals. This all in addition to proper and solid scope identification.

It is impossible to control scope creep, so always work on the highest-priority features. (Bleiweiss, A., Bupp, J., Johnson, D., Meister, J., Murphy, B., Temchin, M., & Oldfield, P, 2009)

Scope creep can be a result of:  (wiki)

  • poor change control
  • lack of proper initial identification of what is required to bring about the project objectives
  • A weak project manager or executive sponsor
  • Poor communication between parties
  • Lack of initial product versatility

Gold Plating

Gold plating in project management explains the error of functioning on a project past the point of falling returns. In other words, adding extra features or functions to the products which were not included in the scope statement.

For instance, once the project requirements are met, the project manager works on further improving the product. The manager might think that the customers will be happy to see any additional or further polished features instead of simply what is asked or expected. The customers might be disappointed with the end product and therefore an extra effort by the project manager may prove to be beneficial.

Gold plating unnecessarily the expectation of the client in addition to increasing the cost and risk on the project.


  1. Scope creep is asked by stakeholders without approving an impact on Baselines
  2. Gold plating is a favour to the client in good faith by the project team without considering the impact on the final product

Scope Creep and Gold plating are undesirable and harmful project management practices that must be avoided at all cost. They are two major threats during the project execution phase.  Strong project management practices i.e work on identifying the WBS, keeping the stakeholders involved through proper communication and have a strong check on project activities are helpful to avoid both.

Further Reading *

  1. Change Request
  2. How to Prevent & Manage Scope CreepMudassir Iqbal, Professional Skills Trainer
  3. Top five causes of scope creep … and what to do about them by Larson, Richard | Larson, Elizabeth

LinkedIn colleagues cited reasons for scope creep that include:

  • Lack of clarity and depth to the original specification document.
  • Allowing direct [unmanaged] contact between client and team participants.
  • Customers trying to get extra work “on the cheap.”
  • Beginning design and development of something before a thorough requirements analysis and cost-benefit analysis has been done.
  • Scope creep “where you do it to yourself” because of lack of foresight and planning.
  • Poorly defined initial requirements.
  • “Management promises the sun and the moon, and breaks the backs of the developers to give them just that in impossibly tight time frames.”
  • It is impossible to control scope creep, so always work on the highest-priority features. (Bleiweiss, A., Bupp, J., Johnson, D., Meister, J., Murphy, B., Temchin, M., & Oldfield, P, 2009)

Scope Creep
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