What does Scope Creep mean in Project Management?

Scope Creep is the adding of features and functionality (project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval. (PMI, 2008, p 440).
Scope Creep meaning and definition

Scope Creep is a problem because it impacts on time, cost and resource in an uncontrolled way. The Iron Triangle tells us that adding a new feature (which is a change to scope) will effect time or cost. For example, to build a new feature a software developer will need time and his/her time will cost money. The additional time and money won't be in the project plan so the new feature will cause the project to be delayed and/or go over budget.

Project Managers battle with scope creep throughout the project lifecycle. Requests for changes in scope can come from anyone involved in the project including from within the project team (it can be exciting to tweak and add features). Scope Creep is so ubiqituous that it should be included on every risk register see risk register of common project risks.

Remember that scope creep is adding unauthorised features so the risk can be mitigated by documenting each and every example of scope creep NO MATTER HOW SMALL in a change request and getting authorisation from the Project Board BEFORE STARTING WORK. This includes ZERO COST changes.

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See also


See all project management words

Methodology specific dictionaries / glossaries

Acknowledgements and references

The image captioned "Scope Creep Definition" in this article, uses artwork provided by Harned, Brett, 2017, New York: Rosenfeld Media. The artwork is available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/35473616510. The image is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide)— Fourth Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.