Scope creep can be insidious. Little extra pieces add up until a project barely resembles its original brief. The price tag changes too, but not in the good way.

Most advice about scope creep is aimed around managing clients. The problem is that it’s not always the client’s fault. Don’t get me wrong, clients often do ask for more than was originally agreed. But it can be a case of the developer misunderstanding what was asked for. Or, in their zest to create the perfect website or app, they end up putting in more time than is necessary.

Ultimately, it’s up to us as the agency to make sure that scope creep doesn’t get out of hand, but clients have a role to play too. In this article I want to outline four steps you can take to ensure that your developer doesn’t do more than expected and how you, as a client, can be certain that you’re communicating clearly.

  1. Agree on scope inclusions and exclusions from the get-go

This sounds obvious but, as with so many things, the trick is in proper application. Having a developer say that they understand your specifications over the phone is different from them agreeing to a clear, well-defined scope document. Ask them to structure their working processes so that this step is included. And make sure you let them know it’s how you work from the start of your relationship.

In a similar vein, you want to make sure you’re kept updated at all stages of the development process. If a developer has misunderstood the terms of the initial brief, or if you decide on a different approach halfway through, changes can be incorporated with a minimum of wasted time and resources.

  1. Understand how frills contribute to scope creep

The motivation to add frills stems from the belief that clients will be pleased when developers add extras. Research has shown this isn’t true. Not only are developers doing themselves a disservice by going beyond the call of duty, they’re not actually adding to your satisfaction as a client. As long as you’re updated, keeping the first tip in mind, catching this should not be a problem.

The other side of this approach involves asking your developer to be proactive about offering extras for a cost. Doing so puts you in a position of power. It communicates that you’re not willing to pay for extra unwanted work whilst also showing that you’re open to suggestions that are in the interest of the project.

  1. Agencies should be proactive about pointing out issues

Speaking as a developer, one of the worst forms of scope creep is when a client asks for an entire project to be redone despite it meeting the agreed-upon specs. Developers and agencies are understandably hesitant to contradict their clients. Because of this, it’s important that a developer or agency is OK with pointing out issues. This goes hand-in-hand with agreed upon scope.

The reason that clients come to us is because we’re the experts. In the vast majority of cases, at least. Their wants are often little more than generalities – security, quick web hosting, high-converting design.

It’s my job to decipher what’s going on in a client’s head, offer what’s genuinely available and iron out their poor ideas…all before they see the final product and realise their mistakes. By ensuring that a developer is proactive about offering criticism, you’ll reduce the likelihood of getting an enterprise solution when a minimum viable product (MVP) is what you really wanted.

  1. Look for a structure in which communication is applied

As I’ve already mentioned, it’s normal for developers to feel worried about upsetting clients. But it’s up to them to make sure that they’re offering constructive criticism and feedback in a spirit of professionalism and dependability. Before engaging a developer, make sure that they have an established framework around how they intend a project to develop and what mechanisms for avoiding scope creep are included.

Michael Gerber, author of the entrepreneurial classic The E-Myth, said that the reason that people loved McDonald’s is because they knew exactly what they were getting every time. Asking for a solid structure around the way your developer works you’ll be of benefit to both you and them.

If you’re interested in website or app development, or need to consult somebody on either of those topics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. And don’t worry, all of our services our scope-creep-proof.