How to deal with scope creep in agile

Question:  How do you deal with scope creep in agile?

The best way to deal with scope creep is relentless transparency.

Typically, when the scope of a software project increases, the team has two choices:

  • absorb it
  • force a change control processshutterstock_206877781

If the change is minor, and there is no negative consequence to absorbing it, then there is no problem (change the button color from red to blue). However, most likely the situation we find ourselves in is that it is a change the team can NOT absorb without impact, yet the timeline/budget remains the same.

Very few projects have all the time/resources/money to do everything

Most projects have some form of scope creep and scope change. This is fine. The idea is to engage in relentless transparency.

This transparency first starts with a list of requirements that are prioritized, so we know what is most important to build, and what is less important to build. In this way, when a new requirement comes into the picture, our business partners prioritize it as well. If it comes in at a higher priority than something already on the list, we have a conversation.

“Hello business partner, we are delighted that you are continuing to help us find ways to bring value to our customers. We share your joy. In the spirit of managing expectations, I wanted to make sure you understood the impact of adding this item. By adding this item here, you are telling me it is higher priority than these items here (further down the list), are we correct? Ok good. Just so you know, since my team’s velocity is only around 20 points per sprint, and we have funding for 5 more sprints, we will get around 100 points of work done, which is great.

What is not so great is that our backlog contains 200 points of work. Right now, we are working based on the priority you have given us. The highest priority items will be worked first, and the lower priority items will be worked last. Since we have more items than we can absorb, we will most likely get about halfway down this list before we run out of time and funding. I wanted to make sure you understood that so our expectations are clear on both sides. If some of these items past the 100 point mark are indeed necessary, we have a few choices, we can get more funding/time, or we can shuffle things around to ensure the backlog matches with your priority. Please let me know how I can help.”

So you look at your data and have a conversation to set expectations based on that data.

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