What is scope or scope of work?

Scope, or scope of work is part of project management. A good scope of work describes the who, what, when, where and how of a project. The scope of a project details every part of a project, including a timeline, who will be doing the work, and an explanation of the finished product. A scope needs to be detailed, accurate, thorough and make the project completely clear to understand.


What is scope creep?

If you have heard the term scope, you have often hear the term “scope creep” associated with business and project management. Scope creep is what it sounds like, something that makes a business waiver or “creep” away from their primary goal. I’ll give you an example:

You’ve agreed to write a business plan for a client and have agreed on a 12-page plan. Later, the client would like a one-page executive summary. Sounds simple, right? One extra page – no big deal. The client would then like for you to make a separate page that will itemize a list of inventory they will need to purchase, which you’ve already highlighted in the business plan. Suddenly, the 12-page plan you’ve agreed on is a few extra pages and a few extra hours of work, with no increase in price. See how your “scope” has “creeped” away from the original agreement?

Scope Creep is rarely intentional; often you offer up an extra service (because you are a nice person and just one more thing would be simple to add….) or you might add on a “free” product, but you don’t realize that things outside of your scope can cost you money. Sometimes your client doesn’t realize that “one more page” or one more item isn’t included in the original scope that you agreed upon.


How do you prevent scope creep?

The first defense against scope creep is to have a solid pricing strategy. You need to know what your service or product costs and what your profit should be, to formulate an effective pricing strategy. Here are other things to do to avoid scope creep:

  • Always have a contract. Don’t start work without one!
  • Have a back-up plan: Be prepared with your scope’s Plan B (Watch for our “Plan B” blog in January!)
  • Schedule a final meeting: Get all of the players on the same page.
  • Implement a communication protocol: Make sure you are part of the communication between workers and client.
  • Keep an open mind: Know where you can give a little and if it’s possible to “creep” slightly without derailing your project.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no: However, make sure you listen to your client; your “no” may turn into an additional project and additional business.


Scope creep is a natural part of business projects and planning. However, too much scope creep can prevent your small business from being profitable. Make sure to watch for scope creep pitfalls, be ready to reduce the scope, not the price and have a Plan B for your project.




For additional resources on scope creep and how to keep you project within the promised scope of work, or if you would like help with other business strategies, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving Collin and Rockwall Counties, Texas.   


Blog by:  Marta Gomez Frey