As a project manager in the agency, you’re probably familiar with the frustrating term “scope creep.” It’s that one thing that can derail even the most well-planned project or campaign, and it always seems to come out of nowhere.

Although it may seem uncommon, it isn’t. According to DPM, project control, including dealing with unexpected bumps and scope creep, is number 8 out of 23 among key project management skills in 2023. No without reason. Project stakeholders are standing on their heads to cope with scope changes.

And fear not, being informed can be your weapon in preventing scope creep occurs. Ready to get to know black scenarios?

Scope creep: What is it?

Scope creep is a term used in project management to describe the tendency for a project’s scope to expand or change beyond its original goals and requirements. It’s the result of adding new features, requirements, or campaign changes that were not initially part of the project plan.

🚨 Attention: Scope creep can occur at any stage of a project. It’s a common challenge in project management, and if not managed effectively, it can have a significant impact on a project’s timeline, budget, and overall project deliverables.

Scope creep in project management: Why is it so common?

People have a natural tendency to want more and more. Project stakeholders may feel that there is still room for improvement even when the project runs smoothly. Just the one minor tweak. Sounds familiar?

What are other common causes of scope creep?

Poor communication and documentation

The complexity of a project is often unknown to key stakeholders. If project requirements and constraints aren’t communicated and documented clearly, stakeholders may not know what to expect. In turn, this lack of awareness can lead to unrealistic expectations, resulting in unnecessary change requests.


Whenever fear of missing out creeps in, managers and their project team feel that the chance (read change) is just around the corner. They can end up overstretching themselves, leading to fuzzy focus and project delays.

External factors

Changes in regulations, economic conditions, or any other external factors can cause unpredicted changes in the project. Some of them may be necessary to continue the project or stay competitive.

Inaccurate estimation

When the team estimates the cost, timeline, and other elements of a project inaccurately, it can leave plenty of room for change requests. A work breakdown structure that is not broken into smaller tasks results in inaccurate analysis as well.

Common causes of scope creep in project management.

Scope creep black scenarios

To avoid scope creep, you have to be aware of warning signs. Knowing the likely scenarios allows you to keep an eye out for and mitigate scope creep fractions during a project or campaign execution.

Scenario 1: The “Can you just” request

Picture this: you’re in the middle of a project execution, and one of your relevant stakeholders comes to you with a request that starts with “Can you just…?” This request seems simple enough, but before you know it, you might not be able to get back the promise you made.

How to deal with it?

Communicate with your stakeholders and set boundaries. Let them know that any changes to the project scope will need to be properly assessed and approved before they can be implemented. Thus, you have time to think about the subject thoroughly before you act ad hock.

Scenario 2: The “I forgot to mention” bomb

Your project team is nearing the end of your project, and one of your stakeholders drops a bombshell – they forgot to mention a critical project’s requirements that need to be added to the project scope statement. It is going to require significant changes to the project objectives, and you don’t have time for it.

How to deal with it?

Document everything and have a proper change control process in place. All stakeholders need to be aware of which specific delays result. Also, review the risk management plan and adjust accordingly. All parties should sign off on any critical changes before implementation.

Scenario 3: Just one small change

Project sponsors tend to focus on the big picture and overlook small details. It’s easy to forget that one seemingly insignificant change can have a huge impact on a project. They’re asking for a minor tweak to the product, but could it lead to other problems down the road?

How to deal with it?

Among project management practices that can reduce stress and lead to a better outcome is the principle of “making small changes, one at a time.” Assess the impact of the change thoroughly. Don’t dismiss it just because it seems small. Instead, evaluate how it will affect the project. Consider whether or not the change needs to go through a formal approval process depending on its complexity and potential risks.

Allfred features useful when managing scope creep.

Try Allfred to keep your project on track. This tool helps you stay on top of your project timeline. It can help you manage complex projects, assign tasks to members of your team, and evaluate the impact of each small change.

Working on a project can be challenging, but it becomes even more difficult when partners come to you with requests related to the project but not in its original scope. It’s hard to know what to do since their request may be important and timely, yet you might not have the resources or capacity to handle this new task.

How to deal with it?

To handle this situation, it’s important to prioritize your stakeholder’s needs and manage their expectations. Let them know that you’ll assess the request and determine whether it can be added to the project scope. Don’t make any promises before you know what resources are available.

Scenario 5: Mr. “I know better”

No matter how hard you try, there is always someone who knows better (even if not exactly). What’s worse, if this person has decision-making authority. They insist on doing something a certain way because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It’s a very dangerous approach that may cause delays and make it challenging to complete the project on time.

How to deal with it?

Educate your stakeholders and align their approach with the project goals. Emphasize that both of you are on the same page and that you both want the project’s outcome to be the best. Ask them to explain why they think a certain method is necessary, and then provide research and evidence to support your way of doing things. It might require some negotiation and compromise, but it’s crucial to stay focused on the end goal and not get sidetracked by old habits.

Scenario 6: The “New technology” trap

As a creative agency, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new tools and software and forget to assess their impact on your project. For example, you want to use the latest graphic design tool, but it’s important to consider how much time and resources it would take to learn how to use it. This trap can lead you down a path of inefficiency and unnecessary expenses. 

How to deal with it?

Before making any decisions, weigh the pros and cons of each option and consider if the new technology is worth the effort or money. Think about potential risks associated with introducing a new tool into your project. Remember, being innovative doesn’t always mean using the latest and greatest technology. Sometimes, sticking with proven tools and techniques can be the most efficient approach for your project.

Scenario 7: Mr. “I want it that way”

Sometimes scope creep doesn’t come from stakeholders but from the top. Your boss, client, or someone higher up the chain decides what they want to add, e.g., additional features to the product or to the whole project. Very often, they throw around ideas from nowhere without realizing the implications. As a result, despite the agency’s recommendations, the client insists on their idea, which leads to being a campaign killer.

How to deal with it?

Fill the communication gap. You need to be proactive in understanding their intent and explaining why it might not be feasible or practical to implement. Ask questions about the scope change and probe for detail on how it will affect the project team members’ work as a whole.

Scenario 8: The “We need to cut the budget” challenge

Who does not know a client who cuts the budget at the last minute? As a creative agency, budget cuts are no stranger to you. But it always stings when it happens at the last minute. You put everything you have into the campaign, and now it seems all that hard work is going to waste.

How to deal with it?

Work backward. Look at the most important deliverables and see which ones can be maintained within the new budget. Think out of the box and see if there are other unconventional solutions that can help you reach your goals without stretching resources.

Allfred can be a real help here. You can easily switch between budget versions, and it will immediately reflect in the project overview. You stay on top of the campaign and can recalculate everything easily, saving a ton of your time!

Scenario 9: The “Over-enthusiastic team member” addition

You have a team member who is always eager to contribute and comes up with new ideas on a regular basis. Having someone who wants to motivate other team members is always a great asset. However, some of these ideas may not align with the project’s objectives or may not be realistic. It can cause scope creep, in particular, if the person is one of the project managers or sponsors and you don’t have much to discuss.

How to deal with it?

As a project manager, you have to encourage your team member’s enthusiasm while also setting boundaries. Show appreciation for their ideas, but also be honest and explain your reasons for why certain ideas may not work. Give them time to express their ideas and opinions, e.g., during brainstorming sessions. Also, provide a channel for them to communicate their ideas and receive feedback without disrupting the project flow.

Project manager checklist: How to manage project scope creep?

#1 Establish clear project requirements and objectives at the outset.

#2 Create a detailed project plan that outlines the project’s deliverables, timelines, and resources.

#3 Define the change management process and ensure that all changes to the project scope are properly documented and approved by stakeholders.

#4 Regularly review and monitor the project’s progress, keeping track of any changes to the scope, timeline, or budget.

#5 Use tools such as project management software to help you track and manage changes to the project scope.

Here is where Allfred comes in.

Allfred dashboard as a budgeting software that helps in managing project scope creep

It’s an all-in-one project management software that lets you track work in progress, real-time financial performance, invoicing, contracts, and time. All of these are on the intuitive, drag & drop dashboard.

#6 Be proactive in identifying potential sources of scope creep, such as changes in technology, stakeholder expectations, or regulatory requirements.

#7 Communicate frequently and openly with stakeholders throughout the project.

#8 Use data and analytics to inform decision-making and help prioritize changes to the project scope.

#9 Be willing to make tough decisions, such as rejecting proposed changes that fall outside of the project’s original scope.

Cope the scope

Scope creep is an inevitable part of any project, but it doesn’t have to be a project killer. By proactively managing scope creep and using good campaign management tools and practices, you can keep your project on track and avoid any major consequences.

➡️ Do you want to have the entire campaign scope under control? Allfred is the solution you may need. Book a demo and get to know how it can help your project team.