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Analyzing Scope Creep


My instructional design team works on e-lesson projects for our company. Following the project management process we plan out the project, analyze the content, develop a plan and timeline. We have experienced scope creep with projects when we start off in one direction, following specifications, then as we start going through reviews the SME’s start adding content, thinking it is adding value. There are instances when it is valued add, but there are times when the new content is either not needed or could be used in additional e-lessons.


What is Project Scope?

Scope is what a project manager commits to deliver early in the life of a project. It is defined during the requirements analysis phase of a project. Working closely with the customer and users the project manager identifies what is needed to bring about the project objectives. Scope is recorded in the project documentation and agreed with all affected parties (Haughey, 2016).

The major causes of scope creep are:

•Poor Requirements Analysis

•Not Involving Users Early Enough

•Underestimating the Complexity of the Project

•Lack of Change Control

•Gold Plating (Haughey, 2016).

For the scope creep that my team has experience, I will focus on what I have to be called gold plating. Gold plating is the term given to the practice of exceeding the scope of a project in the belief it is adding value. This term is a new term that I was not familiar with before this research. I knew what scope creep was, but gold plating was new. It was interesting to learn what it meant. In projects, it is not unusual for SME’s and stakeholders to add new features once development begins and reviews begin believing they will be adding value to the learner. These changes consume time and most times budget and are not guaranteed to increase the value for the learner. The solution to this problem is to make sure all team members are fully aware of the project scope and concentrate on delivering it and nothing more. The PM team needs to ensure specifications are detailed enough to avoid any ambiguity that may lead to unnecessary work. In the end, the PM should reward team members for delivering to specifications, on time and budget. The PM needs to make it clear that undocumented content should not be added, but instead put through the change control process.


Haughey, Duncan. “STOP SCOPE CREEP RUNNING AWAY WITH YOUR PROJECT.” Project Smart. Jan. 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.

Portney, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2016). Practitioner voices: You Can’t Win Them All [Video]. Available from



I am a Learning Strategy Lead, Project Manager, and Professor at the local college. I teach diverse audiences through in person and online learning environments. I manage projects that Instructional Designers create elessons for and consult on curriculum developments. I look forward to continuing to teach in the future, utilizing my instructional designer skills to help create engaging learning environments.

One thought on “Analyzing Scope Creep

  1. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for defining and discussing the term gold plating. I too never heard of this until now. It makes sense though. Every person thinks their added suggestion is golden and would add value to the project; not taking into consideration the affects of introducing new items could have on a project’s budget, timeline, and resources.

    For these reasons, it is important that the PM remind team members and stakeholders of the project scope; as well as implementing a change request process for approving or denying suggested changes to minimize project scope creep.


    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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