Gold plating Versus Scope creep

Project scope - gold platingScope management plan ensures that the project contains all the work that needs to be done, and not anything else.

Here second part is as important as first part. Any effort put to do something other than the scope, is a waste of time, resources, and it may even upset customer. Project manager needs to continuously keep a tab on the work and course-correct whenever team starts doing work out of defined scope.

In this context there are two ways in which team may end up doing more than what is scoped.

Gold plating and Scope creep

Consider the example of a web-based hotel room booking system.

An over-enthusiastic developer decides that it is ‘cool’ to display an additional page with luxurious amenities in the hotel just before committing a room booking transaction by the guest. This additional work takes him two more days of implementation effort. QA team does not have a requirement to really test this feature, so they just test by themselves and deliver the product.

When customer looks at the product she is surprised to see this additional ‘feature’. She knows that the most important goal for business is to make customer book the room in the shortest possible time on the website. Any additional ‘delay’ results in cart abandonment 15% of the times. And this ‘cool’ feature defeats that business objective.

She rejects the deliverable as it violates their business rule.

What is happening here?

Team is gold plating the scope.

Gold plating happens when undefined and accepted scope is added into the deliverables, often with a good intention, thereby deviating from scope baseline.

Who knows the end user’s needs better than the customer?

Let us look at another example.

You have delivered room booking module of the web-based hotel room booking system to customer. Team has started working on the next module – integration with rental cab, laundry service and flight booking systems. Mid way through this, customer comes back with a request, to make a simple change to the module just delivered. She wants you to show a photo of the room on the room-booking web page.

The change is simple and small. You already have the photo of the room in the database. Even the file location information is already loaded in the page scope when you are showing the web page. You decide to make the change without changing any schedule. After all it is just a couple of hours of work.

Customer then asks you to show few more photos of the room, instead of one – and show it as a slide-show. Simple change, again. There is a third party library available to show the slide show. All you need to do is make a call to that API – two lines of additional code. May be couple of more hour of work, considering unit testing effort. Again, no change request raised, and no changes done to the schedule.

The developer finds that the library method call is not returning correctly, and he looks into the API’s code. Simple problem there, and he ventures out to correct it. It has taken him a day more, but it is worth it as he has learned about another API! Looks good on his resume. But now it does not compile, strangely. So he does some investigation and finds a compatibility issue. He looks for an alternate third party library that provides photo slide-show feature. He does not inform project manager about all this.
Project scope creep

Before you know a simple change has turned into a major change and eaten a week from your schedule. You now have a serious threat of getting on the critical path and delaying the project.

What is happening here?

Scope creep.

A simple, seemingly harmless change snowballs into a big change that impacts project constraints resulting in scope creep.

Gold plating and Scope creep are two major threats during project execution phase. They come in subtly and can cause havoc on project constraints. As a project manager you need to be extra careful about not letting this happen on your project.

Next, we shall see how to collect requirements on the project. Requirements lead to scope, which leads to costing, and scheduling – 3 important constraints on the project, so we better get this done right.

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