Gold Plating vs. Scope Creep in Project Management

Project management is difficult because things do not always go according to plan. Changes to the scope or deliverables of your project can occur as a result of gold plating or scope creep. Avoiding these will result in fewer delays, higher costs, and other project management issues. In this article, we will compare and contrast Gold Plating and Scope Creep.

It is critical to understand scope creep and gold plating in preparation for the PMP exam and project management in general. Continue reading to learn more about Gold Plating vs Scope Creep from your Project Management Academy experts.

What is Gold Plating?

When the project team adds extra features that were not part of the original scope, usually as “freebies” for the client, this is referred to as gold plating. Among the possible causes are:

  • Going above and beyond: the project team believes it will satisfy the client.
  • Showing off: team members want to show off their skills.
  • Distracting from flaws: an attempt to conceal flaws or mistakes.

Gold plating is often well-intentioned and appears to be a good idea at first. The client may appreciate the extra effort, but they may be irritated that changes were made without their approval. In either case, gold plating is detrimental to the project and violates PMP protocol.

Why is gold plating bad for your project?

Assume the client approves of the changes. This may appear to be a good thing at first. However, in addition to increasing costs, risks, and time delays, you have raised your client’s expectations and established a troubling precedent. They may expect you to over-deliver the next time and be disappointed if you don’t.

If, on the other hand, your client objects to the unauthorized changes, he or she may refuse to accept the deliverable. In this case, gold plating causes additional delays and costs as the extra features are removed – or you may lose the client. PMPs should avoid gold plating at all costs.

Guidelines for avoiding gold plating

To avoid gold plating, keep an eye on project progress and deliverables. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • Establish a rule: never allow team members to add new features without client approval and a PMP-approved review of how they will affect the project.
  • Follow PMP procedure: establish procedures for team members to follow if they believe additional work is required outside of the original project scope.
  • Communicate and monitor: keep open lines of communication throughout the project and keep an eye on progress to avoid gold plating.

To manage your client’s expectations, set a reliable precedent, and control your project’s budget as a PMP, avoid gold plating and stick to the agreed-upon scope.

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep occurs when changes or expansions to your project scope occur uncontrollably without adjusting the project’s time, cost, or other resources. It usually happens gradually and frequently causes problems later on. Scope creep can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Client requests or interference
  • Project team miscommunication
  • Incomplete or inadequate scope statements, systems, or procedures
  • Insufficient project monitoring
  • External causes (e.g., market trends, industry announcements)

Controlling scope creep is difficult for PMPs, but it is critical for keeping your project on budget and on time.

Scope creep and change management

This is controlled change, not scope creep, if the proper steps for integrated change management are followed. Scope creep alters the scope of a project without affecting other aspects of the project. Proper PMP change management, on the other hand, entails reviewing the change, performing an impact analysis, and adjusting other project details as needed. By following this procedure, you will be able to accommodate the change and reduce its impact on your project.

Guidelines for avoiding scope creep

Scope creep can be difficult to avoid for PMPs because it has many causes and often occurs in small increments. To keep scope creep under control, follow these guidelines:

  • Control your expectations. Create a detailed scope statement, obtain approval for all deliverables and timelines, and set clear expectations and understanding.
  • All changes should be thoroughly reviewed. Prevent the project team from making changes without first consulting with you.
  • Control the communication channels with clients. Communicate with the client as soon as possible, and do not allow the client to speak directly to the team unless absolutely necessary.
  • Encourage open communication among members of the project team.
  • Regularly check in. Ensure that the project proceeds as planned in order to avoid deviations from the scope, budget, or timeline.

Remember that any deviations from the project scope can result in costly delays, unexpected expenses, or other issues.

Importance of scope creep and gold plating for the PMP exam

Because gold plating and scope creep is common in real-life project management situations, they are very likely to appear on the PMP exam. On the PMP exam, you can expect to see at least one or two questions about scope creep and gold plating.

Definitions of gold plating vs. scope creep

For the PMP exam, understand the meanings of gold plating and scope creep. When you deliver more than what you initially promised, this is referred to as gold plating. The scope remains the same, but your deliverables do not.

Scope creep occurs when the scope of a project changes but other project details do not. The scope is expanded without regard for the impact on your project’s schedule, budget, risks, and other factors.

Core differences between gold plating vs. scope creep

The PMP exam scope creep and gold plating differ in two ways:

  1. Scope creep is the expansion or modification of the scope. Gold plating maintains the scope’s baseline but adds additional features or deviations.
  2. Typically, scope creep begins with a stakeholder requesting a change or expansion. Typically, gold plating begins with the project team providing extras without client approval.

Gold plating and scope creep are both detrimental to your project and should be avoided. This does not, however, imply that you should disregard client requests or issues raised by your team. A good PMP must be able to communicate and control themselves! More information can be found in the examples below.

Example of Gold Plating

Assume you are developing a product for a client and a team member approaches you with a suggestion for adding more functionality to the product at no additional cost, risk, or time.

This is gold plating if you agree and allow your team member to implement the change without any review or communication with the client. Instead, as the PMP, contact your client and fully explain the situation to see if they want to investigate or pursue the change.

Example of Scope Creep

Assume you’re creating a website for a client. Your client approaches one of your front-end developers with an out-of-scope request, and your front-end developer agrees without proper review. This type of scope creep can have unanticipated consequences in the later stages of the project.

Your client should make direct contact with you, the PMP. Then, by adjusting the project’s budget and other details, you can determine whether the requested scope expansion can be integrated into the project. If you are unable to accommodate the project, please notify your client and explain why.

Read also: Rolling Wave Planning in Project Management