Scope Creep – “My Project Was Smaller Than This, I Swear!”

tech entrepreneurs risk project scope creep due to being agile

The project scope creep, what a mess! You start with a small manageable project idea but before you know it, you can’t finish it. It has grown too big for you to complete. And you didn’t see it coming.

The Project Scope Creep Sneaks Up On You

These last two weeks, I have been mostly bent over my keyboard trying to work on some web development project. The plan was to have it finished by the end of last week.

As it turns out, I am still working on it. A while back, I even couldn’t see the end of it. The damn project had grown so huge that I was thinking I might never finish it.

I was thinking it required a Google-sized team. This, for a project I had thought would take at most four days is just outrageous.

What I had thought would be a single web page turned into a full blown website with all sorts of APIs. I didn’t see it coming. The project scope creep crept up on me!

The more I dug into this project, the more software packages I had to use and learn. The more packages I used the more features I got tempted to add.

Every time I added a new feature, I felt like I could add just two more supplementary features.

It was real crazy. The project grew too big that I began thinking to myself that I couldn’t possibly finish it by myself. I even began questioning whether it would ever get done.

The Project Scope Creep Eats Your Fun and Agility

Probably you have gone through similar circumstances. Heck, you might even be thinking “Oh, that…, been there, done that”. I must say, though, to a novice, it is overwhelming.

It gets you questioning almost every other resolve you have taken up as an entrepreneur. You wonder if all your projects will turn out like this. It gets too crazy.

The project can seem like it will never end.

As for me, it almost got me depressed. I began questioning my life’s choices, comparing myself to others and the like. It was eating me alive.

The Original Problem gets Obscured

Suddenly, I realized what was happening. All this time, I had been convinced that every feature I added was necessary. Then, as if jolted out of a dream, I began thinking.

What the heck was I up to? The project had grown so big that I didn’t even remember what problem I had set out to solve.

I had fallen in love with the implementation i.e. the coding. Meteor (a Nodejs Fullstack framework) had made it so easy for me to add whatever feature I wanted. The strength of Meteor was crippling me and it was my fault.

I had lost my sense of direction without knowing it. I was lost in the code.

The ease of development couldn’t last forever thanks to the scale my project was gaining. The troubleshooting became longer and boring.

Typos were getting hard to spot. Actually my interest died out. I just wanted the damn project over!

It was so overwhelming that I began procrastinating. I got tired of the errors being thrown all over the place. The typos had become a major issue.

It wasn’t fun anymore. I had ceased being agile. It was over, or so I thought.

How I am Beating Project Scope Creep

It turns out that I survived once again. Thank God! Pheuxxxx. That is yet another hurdle I have barely jumped over in my journey as an entrepreneur.

What I needed to do was to break the whole project up and bite only what I could chew. I needed to separate the core from the fancy features.

That is what I am currently doing. I will then focus on the core features for now. There will be time for growth or even change. That is why the fancy features are not far from my head. My design has them considered.

The Things That Make One A Good Entrepreneur Could Cause Scope Creep

You see, an entrepreneur has loads of freedom. An entrepreneur is free to pick his/her fights (read ‘problems’). And this is fun until it bites him/her.

Exercising control and discipline is not easy. Many people will advise you to exercise these as if all it takes is a choice but they are wrong.

It might be possible for some to just choose to be disciplined and that is it, but it is not so for the rest of us. It is much harder owing to the fact that the very qualities that make us good entrepreneurs make us susceptible to scope creep.

The ability to see problems and devise solutions is what makes you an entrepreneur. The freedom to change these at any time is what makes you agile and most likely to succeed.

However, the more frequently you change these solutions, the higher the chances of the dreaded scope creep showing up.

Truth is the solution an entrepreneur first comes up with is more than likely to be wrong. It will need more than a few tweaks to transform this solution to what it needs to be.

However, the entrepreneur must tread these lines carefully. Otherwise he/she risks having the project get out of hand and out of scope.

Change but Before You Do, Remind Yourself

My advice to you and me is to embrace agility. We shouldn’t be afraid to change whenever there is need.

Actually, my surname ‘Ahindura’ loosely translates from my mother tongue, ‘Runyoro’ to English as ‘God changes things’. I would thus be a hypocrite if I advised anyone to avoid change.

However, as you change, don’t you ever forget the problem! Have your fun but at every turn, remind yourself of the original problem.

Read it, say it, sing it or do whatever comes naturally to you. Just never lose sight of it. The solutions will always change but the problem never changes until you solve it.

One of my mentors once said something along the lines of ‘The problem is your guiding star. Turn left, turn right but make sure your general direction is towards that star’

Before you remind yourself of the problem, put aside the new change you want to add. Forget this change completely and then just recall the problem. Go over the problem.

When you are done with that, look at your proposed change and determine if it is in the general direction of your ‘star’.

If you don’t put that change aside first, you will be tempted to compromise.

It is okay if the new idea is not plausible now. Jot it down somewhere. When the time is right, you will use it.

If this works for you or you have more insightful advice, we can continue the conversation on this blog.

Written by

Martin is a social entrepreneur who loves to code, write, talk (philosophical discussions), watch and live.He likes to think of himself as the Assistant Projects Manager at the tech startup, SopherApps (philo-SopherApps)

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