Scope Creep – Definition

Cite this article as:"Scope Creep – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 23, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020,


Scope Creep Definition

Scope creep describes unexpected changes and uncontrolled development that occur in a project’s scope. Changes are bound to occur during the lifecycle of a project, these changes can either yield positive or negative results. Change happens but change is not exactly as scope creep, this is due to the dreadful nature of scope creep.

Scope creep assume some other names such as “feature creep”, “requirement creep” and “kitchen sink syndrome”. Scope creep is generally considered harmful because it results in changes in a project which are continuous and difficult to control. A good example is a case whereby a project that initially has five features changed due to unforeseen factors.

A Little More on What is Scope Creep

Quite a number of factors lead to scope creep, this include an improper definition, control and documentation of the details of a project. An unskillful project scope can also cause scope creep, these are on the part of the project manager.

However, scope creep can also occur when project stakeholders change the requirements of a project. When a project experiences scope creep, it can result in wastage of capital, delay in project execution and completion, among others.

Scope creep can happen to may project at any time, this is why project managers prepare for its occurrence and set up plans to mitigate its effects.

No matter how big or small a project is, any project can fall victim of scope creep which always leave negative impacts on the project. Scope creep can occur due to any of the following factors;

  • Inexperienced or unskillful project manager
  • Internal communication disagreements between the key stakeholders in a project.
  • Poor project planning and change control
  • Failure to identify project requirements and objectives
  • Weak project sponsors
  • Non-versatility of project amongst other factors.

Scope creep can cause project managers to exceed the budget of a project and this is why many project managers plan for scope creep.

Despite the many hazard effects that scope creep has on the execution and completion of a project, there are few advantages that have been attributed to it. The advantages however are considered incidental positive results.

For instance, some customers tend to benefit from scope creep as a result of changes that are implemented in a project, a good example is when a project that has been designed to achieve a narrow purpose is affected by scope creep, then its purpose expands to a wide coverage.

Although, some projects might suffer from scope creep, it also gives the project management team the chance to reevaluate the internal processes of a project.

Scope creep occurs as continuous changes that might be difficult to control, but there are ways to manage changes that occur due to scope creep. Managing scope creep relates to managing project scope, here are the major ways to manage scope creep;

  • Be conversant with your project scope and project status
  • Monitor your project so as to quickly notice when a drift from the original occurs.
  • If you notice any changes, study the cause and degree of the change.
  • Always include scope changing process in your projects.
  • Decide on change requests and recommend actions for the request.
  • Update changes and carry all the key stakeholders along.

References for Scope Creep

Academic Research on Scope Creep

Controlling design-phase scope creep, Kuprenas, J. A., & Nasr, E. B. (2003). AACE International Transactions, CS11.

Impact of Scope Creep on Software Project Quality., Thakurta, R. (2013). Vilakshan: The XIMB Journal of Management, 10(1).

Influence of Scope Creep on Project Success: AComparative Study between Conventional ApproachVerses Agile Approach, Suma, V., & LakshmiMadhuri, K. (2013). In IEEE International Conference on Advanced research in Engineering and Technology (ICARET).

Direct cost of scope creep in governmental construction projects in Qatar, Hussain, O. A. (2012). Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 12(14).

Beware the scope creep: Establishing service levels, Sadler, I. (2002). International Tax Review, (5), 22.

Managing scope creep with design patterns in formal specifications, Parisi, M. (2011). Int J Softw Eng Appl, 5(1), 63-72.

Effect of Scope Creep in Software Projects a [euro]” Its Bearing on Critical Success Factors, Madhuri, K. L., Rao, J. J., & Suma, V. (2014). International Journal of Computer Applications, 106(2).

Influence of domain and technology upon scope creep in software projects, Madhuri, K. L., & Suma, V. (2014, October). In Advances in Electronics, Computers and Communications (ICAECC), 2014 International Conference on(pp. 1-6). IEEE.

Software project management: The relationship among effort, change, and time, or a first attempt at preventing scope creep, Barry, E., Mukhopadhyay, T., & Slaughter, S. A. (1997).

Scope creep in software development, Prabhakar, G. P., & Quah, J. (2008). Journal of Social Management, 6, 45-59.

Avoiding scope creep protects the bottom line, Bellenger, L. G. (2003). ASHRAE Journal, 45(10), 58.

Was this article helpful?