Even if you’re not familiar with the term scope creep you likely know what it is and maybe even experienced it first hand. It’s changes to the project work and it usually comes on little by little. Once it starts growing your project workload and timelines can be massively affected by it.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to think that interior design projects can ever be managed or controlled to the degree that we can eliminate scope creep. It’s useful though to understand what it is and spot it when it starts. When you’re attuned to the signs you can be ready to address it, rather than letting it take over.
COMMON TYPES OF SCOPE CREEP
As with anything important, the most important step is recognizing when you see it. Here are the most common types of scope creep that we see in interior design projects:
- There are additional revisions that you hadn’t anticipated.
- Additional material sourcing that wasn’t included initially.
- Additional renderings, elevations, etc.
- Client meetings that weren’t initially proposed
- Meeting with trades and/or vendors that weren’t initially proposed
HOW DOES SCOPE CREEP AFFECT TIMELINES?
It’s easy to guess the answer to this one. If you have requests for work that wasn’t initially included in your contract you haven’t allocated time in your calendar for this.
Believe it or not, it’s easier to deal with scope creep when you’re super busy. The reason is that your schedule is so jam packed that additional work becomes difficult and has to be addressed as soon as it starts.
The worst scope creep I ever experienced as a designer was when I was just starting out. I wasn’t so busy that these new work requests couldn’t be managed. The problem with that is that it took a lot of years for me to learn the signs, address it and get paid for the additional work.
Even if you have time to fit in the additional work, make sure you’re dealing with them as “new” work and not as part of the initial work captured in your contract.
HOW DOES SCOPE CREEP AFFECT THE PROJECT’S BUDGET?
If you know you’re dealing with scope creep, you’ve discussed it with your client and it can be addressed in an amendment you can increase the project budget.
Once you address it with your client and they don’t agree to additional costs, you may have to review the budget and find a way to cut back somewhere.
If there’s no wiggle room left and your client isn’t going to approve an amendment you will need to complete the project without this additional work. This is a hard discussion to have with a client but it absolutely needs to happen. You can’t do more work than you signed up for without being financially compensated.
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REASONS FOR SCOPE CREEP
1. There was an improper analysis of the project
This might be the most common reason for scope creep and while it sounds like blame, it really isn’t. We definitely weren’t taught in school how to deal with this situation and only experience can help us overcome it. If you’re dealing with this right now, hang in there. It’s actually a great learning experience for your future projects.
You can learn to ask better questions about work that you think might be needed. This doesn’t have to sound like selling. It’s really just asking questions and pointing out to clients how things may unfold.
For instance, a kitchen design client who hires you doesn’t know that 2 rounds of revisions is standard. During your initial meeting (before the contract is drafted) mention it. “Mrs. Jones, I just want you to realize that when I mention revisions that includes 2 rounds. If you need more it’ll be an additional hourly fee of $x. Some of my clients who have never had a designer before prefer to include 3 rounds of revisions.”
This gives them the opportunity to learn about the project in full before it unfolds.
2. POOR COMMUNICATION WITH CLIENT AND/OR TRADES
When we’re deep in the work and we get a request to do something outside the agreed upon work you may be inclined to just do it. You don’t have time to discuss it and you don’t want to spend any time on admentments.
And then 1 becomes 2 and the requests pile up. You become resentful and your client knows something is wrong.
The best course of action every single time is to address scope creep as soon as it happens. It tells your client that you know what needs to be done and ensures they understand that additions will be treated separately.
3. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE COMPLEXITY OF THE WORK
This happens most often when we take on bigger projects that we don’t have as much experience with.
If you’re used to doing kitchen renovations and suddenly get asked to take on a new build, it stands to reason that you won’t understand how complex this new type of project will be.
This leads to massive amounts of scope creep because most likely you didn’t understand the project enough to quote it accurately initially.
HOW TO STOP SCOPE CREEP
SPEND more TIME than you think you need IN THE PLANNING PHASE
By taking your time at the early stages of planning you have a better chance of understanding all the needs of your clients. Have a lot of discussions that include examples of work that may come up. Your clients (hopefully) aren’t being deceptive, they just don’t know everything that’s involved.
SPEAK UP EARLY
Clients don’t remember what’s written in the contract. Let them know when you’re being asked to do something outside of the scope. It’s a learning experience for them and this practice will eliminate A LOT of resentment from building.
HAVE A CHANGE ORDER OR AMENDMENT IN YOUR TEMPLATE LIBRARY
Don’t be caught without a quick way to include new work. If you feel like it’ll take too long to write up the change order, you’ll end up doing a lot of work for free. Create it once and you’ll never have to worry.
I hope this helps you to move past most of the occasions but when scope creep does occur, you’ll be able to recognize it and deal with it.