Scope creep (also called requirement creep and feature creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence, to be avoided.
Typically, the scope increase consists of either new products or new features of already approved product designs, without corresponding increases in resources, schedule, or budget. As a result, the project team risks drifting away from its original purpose and scope into unplanned additions. As the scope of a project grows, more tasks must be completed within the budget and schedule originally designed for a smaller set of tasks. Accordingly, scope creep can result in a project team overrunning its original budget and schedule.
If budget, resources, and schedule are increased along with the scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term “scope creep” is not used.
Scope creep can be a result of:
- disingenuous customer with a determined "value for free" policy
- poor change control
- lack of proper initial identification of what is required to bring about the project objectives
- weak project manager or executive sponsor
- poor communication between parties
Scope creep is a risk in most projects. Most megaprojects fall victim to scope creep (see Megaprojects and Risk). Scope creep often results in cost overrun. A value for free strategy is difficult to counteract and remains a difficult challenge for even the most experienced project managers.
- Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms by R. Max Wideman P.Eng. FCSCE, FEIC, FICE, Fellow PMI