December 6, 2012

Week 6 Blog Assignment: Scope Creek in a Website Design Project

Week 6 Blog Assignment
Scope Creep in a Website Design Project
by James Landon

I recently approached our district Director of Curriculum and Instruction to suggest improvements to the “Curriculum” section of our district website.  Standards and online resources needed to be re-organized, updated, and presented in a way that easily accessible for our teachers. She asked me to lead the project to re-design the site and I graciously accepted.

As I began the project and began analyzing all the material, I found mountains of information, some updated, some outdated, and some holes that needed material. Scope creep began here and suddenly exploded. In addition to simply updating and re-organizing the district standards by subject area, the project included the addition of Common Core standards and guidelines for teachers as well as instructional resources in every subject area. It was here that we found a massive amount of material and the organizational structure of the site was beginning to get out of control. Unfortunately, I readily admit, I was the main motivator and I actually pushed to increase the scope beyond what we had originally planned.  I kept coming up with new ways to organize the material and every time we added a new section or area of the site, we needed to update the areas we had already finished to keep the format and organizational structure consistent across the site.

Looking back, I realize there were several reasons that scope creep was a problem in this project. First, we did not define the scope at the beginning of the project, in the SOW, for example. Portny et al. (2008) and Stolovitch (n.d.a) all explain that scope should be thoroughly defined as part of the SOW at the beginning of the analysis of the project. By determining the scope and putting it in writing, we would have had a barrier to block the scope creep when it manifested itself.

Next, I was driven by the determination to include everything in this project.  Stolovitch (n.d.b) urges project managers to “avoid the desire to be perfect.”  For me, every new resource meant additions on almost every page. Again, looking back, I should have followed Stolovitch’s (n.d.a) recommendations to prioritize tasks and be disciplined about the scope.

When it was clear the project was not going to be done quickly, the project team met and took two major steps to stop the scope creep and successfully complete the project. First, we set a firm completion date. This was another step we neglected to do at the beginning of the project. It was simply something we would complete soon, but no firm completion date. By setting a firm deadline for completion, our timeline fell into place. Next, we added more people to the team. Two new people were assigned to help transfer files, complete formatting and meet with SME’s to be sure all the content was accurate, updated, and appropriate. These steps allowed us to focus on the original objectives of the project and complete it quickly and successfully. Every time we considered new material or a resource that had the potential of creating scope creep, we quickly looked at the timeline and determined they would just have to wait.

The project is complete and the results are extremely positive. Sure, there are a number of things I would add and even more I would change to improve the site. However, the original objectives of the project were met and the project was successful because we finally set a timeline, defined the scope, and focused our work to get the job done.


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.

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.a). Project kickoff (week 1 resources). [Video]. Laureate.

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.b). Monitoring projects (week 6 resources). [Video]. Laureate.


  1. James,
    I am happy to know that you eventually realized that the job would not get done on time if you did not stop all the scope creep issues:). I understand fully well your drive and passion to get things done to a certain standard, and I also know that working on an online project, there is a tendency to want to perfect the site. It is so amazing that when we look back on these scenarios, we can now identify the strategies that we could or should have employed to make the project run effectively. Creating the SOW document would have certainly helped you to work within a certain parameter, thus helping you to complete the project within a set time frame. I am happy that the team recognized the challenges and was able to assist and ensure the project was completed within the timeframe agreed upon. However, though the project was faced with all the scope creep and delay in schedule, I believe the project may not have accomplished all the successes, had you not being so determined. Kudos to you and your team!

  2. James,

    Outstanding work to get the project rolling and successfully completed. I agree that setting the scope and completion date will majorly affect a project. Creating the SOW in the beginning would have kept off the scope creep, but the team came together realized their mistakes and successfully completed the project. Great work. It takes a team to come together and tackle all their issues. Great work.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. James, I apologize, due to browser tab mix up I posted this originally as a reply to Gayle!

    What I intended to say to you is that we feel often that more is more instead of less is more -- and that desire to be all encompassing in our project work can sometimes be our downfall, as you mentioned in your experience. One of the things I see that is so relevant to scope documentation is issuing in clear and straightforward terms what will and will not be included in the scope of the work. Without those parameters as a fall-back, not only is it tough to contain the project within the structure of the project objectives, but it proves a nearly impossible scenario to apply evaluative techniques as the subject expansiveness inflates the content and the project can lose sight of whether the goals for success have been met. Well written example, and a pleasure to read!

  5. James,
    I am looking forward to Common Core Standards, as it seems a project like yours doesn't have as much problem with scope creep, as it does just plain catching the scope in the first place. We have been working with PLC's at our school, and it is frustrating having to develop curriculum for the current year knowing that the state is changing the standards the following year and you'll have to eventually adapt your lessons to that anyway! In our district we don't have anyone in charge of curriculum development and sometimes these overwhelming tasks just need to be considered as a process that will take a few years.
    Thanks for your comments on my blog; you and I are a lot alike in our ability to get distracted with technology. I find myself deleting files that I don't use, but probably took close to an hour to develop 5 years ago! That being said, many of my efforts to digitize and file templates have payed off tenfold over the years, so I guess it all evens out. I regularly use our schools mobile labs of chrome-books in my classroom(actually, no one else wants to deal with them) and it is just now paying off. The learning curve for passwords and basic understanding for my students was steep at the beginning of the year, but now they use them seamlessly in the classroom and the benefits to their learning are starting to show.