Scope Creep Vs. Gold Plating: Exploring Ways to Manage Them

Scope creep and gold plating are common issues in project management that strain a project's performance and resources. Scope creep occurs when project requirements expand beyond the original scope due to stakeholder demands, while gold plating involves adding extra features without client consent, driven by the project team's belief that these additions will please the customer. Both practices can lead to budget overruns, project delays, and reduced success rates. Effective management involves addressing the root causes, such as poor communication and inadequate requirement gathering. Tools like AI meeting assistants, exemplified by Reelay, can help mitigate these issues by documenting discussions, ensuring stakeholder alignment, and preventing unauthorized changes. By improving communication and accountability, project managers can better control scope creep and gold plating, leading to more successful project outcomes.

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Scope creep and gold plating put a strain on managing a project. 

Scope creep happens when a user's or a project stakeholder's requirements change abruptly, requiring the team to add new features and functionality. Conversely, a project team initiates gold plating when they add more features without discussing them with clients or their customers. The team feels adding more features will delight the customer, but that’s not always true. 

These two acts disrupt a project’s performance and can cause significant damage if you don’t manage them properly. 

There’s a way to manage them in a project. Read through the article to get to know how to do it. 

Gold plating vs. scope creep

Gold plating refers to adding more features or “freebies” that weren’t part of the project. Scope creep occurs when a project’s requirements stretch beyond the original scope after it has started based on the client’s requests.

Unlike “change,” these two phenomena are innocently guilty of not making time, budget, and resource adjustments, significantly impacting the project’s end goal or outcome. 

Why do you think gold plating occurs? 

Gold plating done with good intentions might only sometimes produce the best output. Your bias might encourage you to believe in add-on features that work for clients. Or, you might do it for your satisfaction, which comes from including additional features that bring your skills to the limelight. 

Whatever the reason, the underlying causes of gold plating are a lack of discipline and accountability. If you deal with gold plating consistently, you need to solve for these causes rather than the reasons to help your team avoid it. If you solve for a reason, you’ll simply postpone solving for the actual causes and welcome such situations regularly. 

There are several ways to manage gold plating. But before we discuss them, let’s consider the causes of scope creep. 

Why do you think scope creep occurs?

Changes occur frequently in any project, but when they’re not managed properly, they result in scope creep. A scope creep can result from poor initial planning in a project. When you research and document requirements inadequately, it sets unclear project objectives. In the course of projects, new requirements emerge, and you start accommodating them without any change control, and you get to see clear goals at the cost of distorted timelines, resources, and budgets. 

This improves project outcomes but unnecessarily burdens the team with unmanaged changes. Scope creep, whether due to stakeholder influence or competitive pressures, severely impacts the project. 

Here’s what Mandy, from Mandy Brown LLC, experienced:

"I would send a deliverable to my Subject Matter Expert (SME), and they would involve another individual. Whenever I had a question, that person would loop in someone else, and the cycle continued. Additionally, my key decision-maker left the team halfway through the project. Eventually, I found myself unsure of who the final decision-maker was. Despite these challenges, we managed to complete the project before the deadline, but only with the assistance of the program manager and project coordinator."

As the number of stakeholders increases, there is a high chance that requirements will be modified midway. It’s often the case when the project’s scope isn’t properly documented. 

The root causes are improper requirement gathering, documentation, control, and potential misalignment with a project’s stakeholders. 

Measuring the impact of gold plating and scope creep

Seldom, the client might be happy to see add-on features and functionality, but that’s too rare to be true for all gold plating scenarios. Because of the limited time, resources, and budget decided in a project’s scope baseline, there is a chance that actual requirements were compromised to deliver the unexpected add-ons. This is arguable, but a reasonable doubt to make your client anxious. 

You don’t want to be there trying to instill more confidence in project outcomes that are already of quality. Similarly, scope creep can throw your key milestones, timelines, and budgets away while pushing you to be reactive and accommodate clients' new requests. 

Both scenarios seem insignificant at first. But when they enter a repetitive loop, solving them becomes as tricky as finding a needle in a haystack. 

Gold plating and scope creep contribute to the following: 

  • Budget overruns. According to a Project Management Institute (PMI) study, 52% of projects experience scope creep, and these projects are 45% more likely to run over budget. For example, The AU$2.3 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia was AU$640 million over budget when the project closed.
  • Project delays. The same study reported that projects with scope creep are 40% more likely to be delayed.
  • Success rate. Research suggests that the successful project completion rate has dropped to 9%, and scope creep and gold plating are some of its primary causes.

Jenna Farrell, Co-Founder of Scopey, says, “After conducting over 100 in-depth surveys, we found that scope creep leads to an average revenue loss of 15% per project. Identifying scope creep can be challenging because it often manifests as small, incremental additions that quickly accumulate. Team members eager to please clients may inadvertently incorporate unapproved requirements.”

Why do gold plating and scope creep actually occur? 

With a successful project completion rate sitting at a single number percentage, it’s crucial to address these challenges sooner rather than later. The way to do it is by getting right to the actual cause. 

You’re likely to see the symptoms, such as new requirements arriving or the need for add-on features, as the cause of these issues, but they’re mere symptoms. 

Communication is a major cause of scope creep and gold plating. 

This research paper justifies the same. 

The root causes of: 

  • Gold plating: lack of discipline and accountability;
  • Scope creep: improper requirement gathering, documentation, control, and misalignment with a project’s stakeholders. 

These result from a lack of communication among a project's internal and external stakeholders. 

Artificial intelligence solves both challenges through a corporate AI meeting assistant

Dealing with scope creep and gold plating using AI

A corporate AI meeting assistant, like Reelay, manages internal and external communication seamlessly so you can focus on managing the project. 

With Reelay’s corporate AI meeting assistant, you can: 

  • Document every discussion
  • Be totally present in meetings to make decisions.
  • Keep all stakeholders on the same page (quite literally)
  • Be a part of every meeting

Let’s take a deep dive. 

Document every discussion

You can trust Reelay’s corporate AI meeting assistant to transcribe every discussion word for word in a meeting. Other AI tools in the market offer an accuracy of 80% on average. However, in a head-to-head comparison with these tools, Reelay users report it as more accurate. You can try it with its unlimited pilot program for 30 - 60 days and experience its documentation capabilities. 

Documentation will help you keep a record of all things agreed upon and decided upon in meetings without letting anything slip through the cracks. No matter how often stakeholders change, you’ll have a sharable record of everything shared in the discussions. 

Jenna Farrell at Scopey says, “To mitigate scope creep, it is essential to establish a detailed project scope that clearly outlines what is and isn’t included in the work. Maintaining clear, consistent communication with the client is crucial to keeping scope creep at bay.”

Be totally present in meetings to make decisions

Project management professionals often become robotic notetakers to capture meeting minutes rather than being powerful negotiators. Reelay takes over your heavy lifting to take down meeting minutes and lets you get clarity on the project necessary to make decisions. 

It allows you to focus on negotiating timelines and budget constraints while giving you the required mind space to evaluate the impact whenever any change arises. This makes you more efficient in your work and helps you control and manage scope creep effectively. 

Keep all stakeholders on the same page (quite literally)

Reelay emails meeting minutes in a comprehensive document after the meeting to all stakeholders. It documents the highlights, action items, and who’s responsible for what. It keeps the team and clients aligned regarding expectations, actions, and deliverables. 

Through this documentation, Reelay makes the team more accountable for what’s originally agreed upon. You can set up a process to document any new feature addition and send it to the client with the meeting minutes to get approval and prevent gold plating. 

Be a part of every meeting

Being overbooked is a usual day at the project management office. You send your team to a meeting you can’t attend personally to get the meeting minutes. This limits the amount of information you get as it depends on the team members and how much they can effectively capture. 

Reelay’s corporate AI meeting assistant joins every meeting on your behalf, giving you complete insights, email recaps, and comprehensive meeting minutes. It doesn’t let any action or decision slip your sight, helping you be in the know of every minute update. 

This lets you effectively manage and control scope creep and gold-plating instances if they come into the discussion where you aren’t present. Moreover, Reelay’s AI meeting assistant lets you be present in every meeting, whether on Zoom, Gmeet, Microsoft Team, or Webex. 

Making scope management simpler for enterprises

Reelay’s corporate AI meeting assistant is designed for enterprise use cases and focuses more on security and privacy. It fully complies with requirements like Soc 2 Type 2,  GDPR, HIPAA, etc. 

Compared to other AI meeting assistants on the market, Reelay is more affordable. Its per-seat pricing is as low as $5 per month. 

Try Reelay to effectively manage projects while ensuring conversational privacy.

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