This assignment was particularly difficult for me since I have no experience with project management that relates. So, instead I interviewed a friend who has worked in project management a great deal.
Prior to her current role, Elisia worked as an internal auditor for General Electric (she was employed by GE to audit GE). As an auditor, she would be assigned, with a team, to one of the GE businesses and spend four months on site working on a project. On multiple assignments Elisia experienced the hairy monster professionally referred to as scope creep. One specific example that stands out was when she was on a corporate HQ assignment. The project was related to the roll-out of a newly updated financial accounting standard for variable interest entities (VIE). The original scope of the project was to develop and disseminate companywide training on the technical changes and implications of the new accounting standard. However, as the project progressed the scope creep monster reared its ugly head. By the end of the four months, the project had increased to include a second key deliverable – to determine the entire population of VIEs that would be affected by this new standard.
Looking back, Elisia realizes that the second deliverable was equally, if not more, work intensive than the first. The scope creep was more like a scope jump. Thinking about how this could have happened, Elisia realizes now that there were two key factors working against her audit team. First, when the clients were conceptualizing and determining project scope, they themselves were unsure of what it should be. Therefore when the projects original scope was presented to the team, it was, to some degree, only a half-baked idea at that point. Second, is the fact that they were internal auditors. In this particular audit, the clients were extremely powerful within GE and had the network and influence to control our project. Said another way, there was not a clear line and definition of roles and responsibilities between the team and the client. This “blur” carried over to all aspects of the project, including work scope.
Though the team eventually was able to meet both deliverables of the project, it took a lot of extra time, work and resources to complete. Additionally, the relationship between all the key stakeholders (audit team, direct clients and indirect clients), was constantly strained. The issues that this project faced were largely driven by scope creep. What Elisia took away from this experience, is the knowledge that once you realize scope creep is occurring, it’s already too late to stop. Scope creep is something that must be proactively prevented. The project team must make clear to the client that scope creep also has a detrimental effect on them – the client could be spending more money, deadlines might not be met, and they might not have the most appropriately resourced project team. Additionally, the project team needs to be involved as early in the planning phases as their client will allow - the project team and clients must work together define the project scope in writing and in detail, being sure to outline what is included, what is not included the key deliverables and the project timeline.