Contracts create a pretty clear outline when it comes to everybody’s rights and responsibilities in an agreement, which can make a situation confusing when a project or plan changes along the way. This happens more often than many people realize, especially in the construction and technology industries where it’s common for customers to ask for adjustments to a project over time as new issues crop up or new goals are identified.
This commonly results in “scope creep,” where a project slowly expands beyond the original boundaries of the agreement. Scope creep is a big problem because it has the potential to lead to increased costs, project delays and strained relationships between contractors and clients. Scope creep is often the caused by the following influences.
Unclear initial agreements
When a project is poorly or ambiguously defined, that can leave the scope of the work “open to interpretation.” While flexibility is important in a contract, so is specificity. Otherwise, clients may have expectations about additional work that they think should be included in the price.
Poor control processes
If you want to rein in scope creep, you need an established change order process. This not only makes certain that everybody is on the same page about any changes to the scope of the work, but it can also help clients understand that certain changes will have an impact on both the time frame of the work and the budget.
If the client expresses unrealistic goals and you can’t reasonably meet their objectives within the scope of the project as it is initially defined, scope creep is inevitable. It’s better to sit a client down and make sure that their expectations align with reality at the start (even if it means losing their business) than to end up not being able to deliver.
Scope creep isn’t just a source of frustration for contractors – it’s also a source of inspiration for civil claims. When clients aren’t clear about their objectives or they change objectives in the middle of a project, the potential for litigation is high. If you’re in the middle of a conflict with one of your clients over scope creep, it may be time to explore your legal options with the assistance of an attorney so that you can proactively reach a solution.