How to tackle scope creep – by Stephen Anderson, Business Consultant

Eliga’s Business Consultant, Stephen Anderson, outlines how to tackle scope creep during the delivery lifecycle.  


The agile narrative tells us to embrace change. But let’s face it; unless you’re operating in the perfect agile environment, dealing with scope creep remains one of the hardest parts of a project to navigate.   

What is scope creep? 

By definition, it refers to any new (usually unexpected) requirement put forward by stakeholders after the scope has been agreed for a sprint or project.  

Waterfall projects have a habit of being unable to handle scope creep because they assume a team has perfect knowledge at the outset of a project. If you have perfect knowledge, you can create the perfect plan, right? Unfortunately, perfect knowledge and plans don’t exist. This leaves waterfall projects vulnerable to scope creep that naturally occurs from working through unknowns during the delivery lifecycle. According to a survey by IEEE Access of 60 project managers, researchers “found that 92% of the projects failed due to lack of scope creep management.”

In much the same way, agile projects can encounter issues dealing with scope creep because they regularly operate within the constraints of legacy business processes. Does the need to align to pre-defined release schedules with limited room to change team size sound familiar? If so, it’s likely it is still a pain point because you’re working through unknowns without sufficient flexibility.    

So, while the battle for wider business transformation continues, here at Eliga we have created a list of quick wins you can use to improve how your project tackles scope creep.   


Before you start a project:  

  1. Assume there will be a certain level of scope creep  
  • Factor this into planning and add contingency.  
  • This gives your project the flexibility to absorb changes that provide the most value without going down the more formal change request route.  
  1. Define and streamline your change request process 
  • You won’t always be able to absorb scope creep, so document the process you need to go through to convert scope creep into formal scope change. 
  • Once documented, sit down with stakeholders involved in the process and establish a clear owner and timeframe for each step.  
  • If you find the overall process takes too long, be transparent with project sponsors on how this impacts your team’s ability to respond to change.  
  1. Establish a change analysis process   
  • Set boundaries up front so you’re aware when you have the power to push back on low-value scope creep.  
  • Confirm with stakeholders when scope creep is likely to take priority over existing deliverables and define the steps and output your team is responsible for when analysing the impact of a change.  


When your project is in-flight:  

  1. Keep a centralised log of all change requests 
  • Make this available to the whole team and all stakeholders to aid transparency.  
  • Within the changelog, track whether a change is scope creep or a formal change request, as well as the priority level, requester details and due date.  
  1. Use existing Agile ceremonies to your advantage 
  • Discuss change requests during 3 Amigos and work with delivery teams to get a quick view of complexity.  
  • Likewise, use backlog refinement sessions to determine the value and priority of requests.  
  • Combined, you can then make a clear decision on whether to push back on a request for the current iteration (due to high complexity or a lack of value).  
  1. Maintain transparency with stakeholders 
  • Regularly draw stakeholders’ attention to the changelog and be honest regarding the complexity and value of each request.  
  • By demonstrating your project can absorb high-value quick-win scope creep, stakeholders are more likely to be accepting when you push back in other scenarios.  


While there’s no silver bullet, adopting the above steps sets clear expectations for both your team and your stakeholder, helping maintain a healthy respect for boundaries and giving your project the best chance of reaching an outcome beneficial to all parties. Give them a go and let us know how you get on!  


Want to find out more?

Does your business need help with your digital transformation? Eliga’s friendly, experienced team can help you connect the dots – whether you already know what you want, or wish to explore new ideas.  

Book an informal, 15-minute online meeting directly with our team here