Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stairway to Scope Creep

On a personal note, everyone has experienced coping with change.  Whether you were the cause of the changes or on the receiving end of the changes, scope creep is a natural trait of people to make improvements in their desired outcomes. Having been on the receiving end of changes on corporate work projects, it is interesting to find myself being the cause of scope creep on my home improvement project.  “Scope creep is a tendency of the client as well as project team members to try making improvements as the project progresses” (Portny, 2008).

It started out with an idea to finish my basement of my home from an unfinished area into extra living space for a family entertainment room.  A co-worker gave me a name of a free-lance contractor that had his own small business that did quality work inexpensively and this would work will on a small project.  The statement of work (SOW) started out with simple dry walling project in the basement area.  The client (me) and contractor (vendor) both signed a contract agreement on a set cost for the follow project deliverables.

• Install insulation 
• Dry Wall (1000 sq. ft. area)
• Finish and paint walls
• Cover and finish support basement beams
• Install two dry walls to section off furnace area, add two doorway entrances with doors, and install shelving to convert this area into a storage room
• Install drop ceiling
• Install receding ceiling lights
• Install one stairway light
• Install additional heating and cooling vents
• Install tile flooring
• Install enforcement beams to hang up flat screen TV on the wall
• Install more shelf’s  under stairway for extra storage space

After the project began to progress, I started to change my mind.  First change, I did not like the idea of the stairway being steep going down to the basement.  I decided to move the kitchen pantry closet over about ten feet to reroute the steps over to give it a more open look and free then completely removing the original stairs to reroute the steps into a curve shape to make them less steep.  Of course this is out of scope, the client (me) and the contractor (vendor) had to negotiate the original costs plus increase in labor, time and additional materials.

Now this week armed with more photos after searching on the Internet of beautiful stairways already heading over my budget plans, I want the stairway to have small flushed accent lights running down parallel with the steps on the opposite side of the stair rails at the lower bottom of steps and instead of traditional wood railings I want copper iron accent rails with decorate ending s-shaped rails at shown in the photo.    The contractor informed me today this would involve even more time and higher material costs because this type of railing and iron shoes for placement. 

Wait, I am not done with my scope creep story! 

As construction is beginning to progress smoothly with changes,  now I am thinking the sliding patio door blinds next to the relocated pantry closet and the kitchen area ceiling light fixture should to be replaced to match the new design layout.  At this point dealing with a client like me as the contractor's project manager, I would be pulling out my hair.  Can’t this client make up their mind; it is like a moving target always wanting something different.  I am sure as project managers we have all been there at some point in our careers and personal life when working on a project with scope creep people like I have become on my personal home improvement project. 

What is the best approach to deal with expected project changes from clients like me that just can't make up their mind?  

At the initial start of a project, set a clearly defined change control system in place for the client and vendor.  A change control system will do the following (Portney, p.346,  2008).

• Helps to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the requested changes.
• Identify all impacts of changes on the project timeline and budget.
• Can help to identify alternative changes that will accomplish the same outcomes without major impact on the project.
• Acts as a communication method to accept changes for all parties involved.
• Ensure the changes were preformed correctly according to the change request.

Avoiding scope creep is not possible but monitoring and controlling these changes will be beneficial for both parties involved to reduce misunderstanding.

-Mary Layne


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.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Instructional design project managers may sometimes feel like they are performing a juggling act balancing all key elements of a project at the same time. 

Resources:  Workers, software tools and learning materials.
Time:  Task durations and dependencies and critical paths.
Money:  Budget costs, training budgets and profits.
Scope:  Size of Project, learning goals and requirements.

”It is absolutely imperative that project managers understand any changes to the project will have a dynamic effect on budgets, either time or resources” (Reh, 2011). While there is no magic formula for managing a budget, the 80/20 rule can help ID project managers become more effective. “Project managers know that 20% of the projects work (first 10% and the last 10%) will consume 80% of your time and resources” (Reh, 2011).

Actually, this 80/20 rule can be applied to almost anything you deal with in life. This rule helps to remind us about focusing on 20% of what matters throughout our daily tasks as project managers.  Instead of wasting time on 80% of your time and energy on things that do not matter, concentrate on the 20% that is really important on the project.

Remember, if your project runs off track and over-budget the project will not be considered successful even if it meets the needs of end users.  This is why project managers need to carefully manage and control their budgets. There are four strategies that will help project manager maintain control of your project’s budget to prevent massive cost overruns (Westland, 2011). Most important, project managers need to put aside 20% of the project’s budget aside into a reserve back-up fund in case of unexpected circumstances because they’re a lot of unknown factors that can create variances and control changes within a project’s budget.

1. Monitor your budget- A project can start heading out of control quickly without frequent oversight you would not be able to see if the budget is starting to head in the wrong direction.  It is easier to manage a project that is going 10% over budget then letting it get out of hand trying to correct it later in the project phases with a 50% overrun.

2. Watch your resource usage- The work staff can contribute to much of your project’s budget so it is important to keep track of the number of people currently working on a project, as the project moves though phases less or more people will be needed to complete project tasks. Project managers should review the number of people currently working on a project and the project's future resource needs regularly to help keep your project budget on track.

3. Keep team members informed- By informing the team is to empower your team to become more involved and take ownership as part of the project. Keeping the team informed about the budget status, will help them watch their project charges and they will be less likely to waste unnecessary extra time and man hours.

4. Keep an eye out for scope creep- This is a leading cause of project budget overruns. “As unplanned work finds its way into your project, billable hours mount and the project budget can get out of control” (Westland, 2011). Project managers must carefully manage changes that were not part of the project’s initial budgeting requirements. Project change control will need further authorization for additional project funding to cover the cost of extra time and work.

A projects budget is a living piece of a project, something instructional design project managers must review with their teams and their stakeholders on a regular basis. By keeping a watchful eye on the project budget will keep both stakeholders and management happier because it is critical to building a strong foundation for the project.

-Mary Layne

Reh, J. (2011). Project Management 101  Part 1: Basic Project Mnagement Outline. Retrieved December 1, 2011 from
Westland, J. (2011). Project Management: Four Ways to Manage Your Budget. Retrieved December 1, 2011 from