Nothing can derail a project more than scope creep. This is the effect of adding different parameters to a project, after work has begun, which makes it difficult to complete without adding more effort, time, or money. But there is a way to manage scope creep. It requires understanding the scope ahead of time.
Sometimes I get an estimate request for a project with very little clear direction other than expected outcomes. Someone wants a brochure that sells a particular product offering. However, the product hasn't been created yet, the price isn't factored, and the audience is a bit unclear. Someone wants a logo done, but they don't know how it will be applied or what they are trying to say. Those are indications that design work cannot even begin, let alone estimated on.
But what can we do in those circumstances?
Ask a lot of questions.
Getting specifics requires asking a lot of questions. Remember, the only bad question is the one not asked. Some of the benefits of asking questions is that it allows the client to think more about what they are trying to do. And that might cause them to come to the conclusion that they aren't ready for design work at this point — which is good. Also, you may realize you have a good grasp of what needs to happen which the client hasn't considered. Or, you realize you both don't know what's required which means it's time to hold back.
Consider the design process.
As you consider the request, think about how it fits with your process. If it seems that part of your process requires particular input from the client, or knowledge you don't have, this can be a good indicator that more information is needed ahead of time.
Prepare a write up of assumptions.
Even when you get a lot of your questions answered and feel pretty confident you understand what's needed, still check your assumptions. If the client agrees with your assumptions, you will be able to give a good estimate and be assured that the project scope is understood by both parties. After the estimate is approved and work begins it's a good idea to start work with a good creative brief, which the client will sign off on for the first stage of the process. This works as a standard for project scope.
Know what is a change in scope.
Design work goes through a normal process of edits and adjustments. This doesn't mean it's always a change in scope. A change in scope involves three changes to the original work plan.
- First, it's the addition of features or complexity.
- Second, it's an increase in cost incurred to produce.
- Third, it's a decrease in time allowed.
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