It’s usually easy for project teams to generate enthusiasm for new product launch efforts. Everyone is excited to bring something new to the market and these projects are full of hope and promise. But as your group works with stakeholders to nail down and maintain the project’s parameters, it’s not uncommon to find that your supporters see the initiative’s scope as somewhat flexible.
If you want to address scope creep in your next product launch, get ahead of the game by understanding the areas where your project’s boundaries are likely to be tested.
Requirements: Market conditions and customer expectations are never static. That may be one of the broader challenges of any new product launch, but it becomes an acute scope creep problem when internal decision-makers want to continuously adjust the final deliverables to stay in sync with what customers want and what’s already available in the marketplace. This is particularly difficult to manage when the product development cycle is long or where new competitors have recently upended long-standing expectations. Whether you’re releasing a new product or offering a new service, be sure to confirm your project scope by gaining consensus on the requirements early in the process.
Features: Similar to requirements creep, there may be a drive to add features to an upcoming product or offering simply because you can, which creates a significant scope creep headache. When planning a new technology platform, for example, stakeholders might assume that a proposed feature will be easy to build and have little effect on the project’s schedule or budget. However, development and design teams know that’s rarely the case—what looks like a simple addition could require months of coding, testing, and debugging. Manufactured goods might require production line retooling or product recertification. With no shortage of new ideas coming out of your internal stakeholder groups and a constant drive to stay ahead of the competition, putting (and keeping) a stake in the ground on your product’s capabilities can be challenging. A neutral and objective third-party, such as an experienced project management consultancy, can help your team stay on track when it comes to defining and preserving your project’s scope and ensuring everyone understands the parameters.
Compliance: In some industries, it’s extremely difficult to predict how regulatory requirements may change between the initial development of a product and its launch. That uncertainty sometimes manifests within your stakeholder base in the form of scope creep, with people predicting what they think will happen during the development cycle—which could be years long in some cases—and how that as-yet-unknown compliance mandate will affect the requirements that your product must meet. A good strategy in these instances is to work with highly knowledge industry experts to gain more informed insight into how requirements are expected to change and how quickly new mandates will take effect.
Partners: Many products are the result of several companies working together to provide a more compelling offering. For instance, a single piece of software may rely on a network of integrations with other providers to deliver services or functionality. The result is a product with powerful capabilities, but moving these complex projects from inception to launch requires that everyone is in agreement on a defined set of objectives. Any collaborator could request or require new elements and contribute to scope creep. New thinking around best practices, availability of more sophisticated technologies, a growing web of connections with other platforms, and easy access to complementary solutions can all affect your product launch’s deliverables. Be diligent about gathering input from your portfolio of collaborators about timing, costs, and resource needs so you can develop a scope for your shared project that’s ambitious but attainable.