How to avoid scope creep in Agile Development

Scope creep can be a slow killer for many projects, steadily wearing away at available resources until there’s nothing left to get the job done.

When your project has limited spend available or a small pool of talent to keep it moving in the right direction, it’s important to pay close attention to scope and unintentional feature creep as they develop. Managing such factors from an agile perspective involves leveraging effective communication techniques and sticking to proper planning practices.

Read on to learn more about how to avoid scope creep in agile development through proactive collaboration.

Eliminating unnecessary features

Trimming down unwelcome, unused, and unnecessary product features is essential for keeping your development project on the right track.

As your agile project develops, lines separating useful, necessary features from those that receive less-than-optimal responses from focus groups and end users can become blurred. This issue is made worse by the challenge of coordinating the efforts of different, cross-functional teams in alignment with the agile approach.

The following suggestions can tackle this problem directly:

Measure feature adoption

It’s almost impossible to improve the things you don’t measure. This simple maxim applies to feature tracking especially, as user experience matters most in deciding what stays and what goes.

Failing to measure feature adoption hurts long-term flexibility and performance. Features that drain available resources through continued maintenance and development but are the least important to end users are prime candidates for cutting.

Building what people want is critical and adopting the above approach ensures your team’s attention remains fixed on this goal.

Manage backlog

As was mentioned above, features built into your current project carry a built-in maintenance cost for your team members, potentially wasting valuable time and resources when that maintenance is unwarranted.

Assess your product’s existing feature backlog and eliminate features that your end users aren’t too excited about to keep your team from spreading itself too thin. On top of that, features of little or no immediate importance can be prioritized as such, making space for critical improvements and major developments.

Scope creep

Communicating with customers

Communication makes collaboration with customers possible even when their priorities shift throughout the development process.

The following concepts can help your team pin down scope details as new needs arise:

Clear up doubts and misunderstandings

With the power of the Internet at our fingertips and wide social networks of seemingly knowledgeable individuals to turn to for tips, it can be tempting to seek out feature/integration advice for development projects that are currently underway.

Unfortunately, customers can often end up being misled by the people and sources they trust to inform them on their project’s progress, imposing counterintuitive new restrictions on busy teams halfway through development.

Situations like these call for careful and consistent communication between developers and customers to clear up issues surrounding development details without negatively affecting the final product.

Align expectations with requirements

Keeping project scope within reasonable limits hinges on your ability to discuss issues and requirements clearly with clients.

After consulting with clients about their concerns and project goals, you can go forward in any of the following ways to add new requirements to their project’s development plan without negatively impacting the customer relationship:

  • Requested feature additions can be switched out for similar but less-important features, keeping costs and development timeframes roughly the same.
  • Requests can be tacked onto the original project at an additional cost (factoring in the added time it may take for these to be handled).
  • Requests can be placed in the project’s backlog to be developed after the bulk of the product has been completed.

Ideally, the third option (adding requests to the backlog) should be chosen as it ensures time-to-completion remains the same and general design plans aren’t immediately affected.

Testing integrations and features

A product’s new features have to be tested before they can go live. However, it can often be helpful to test integrations before they’re fully developed by working them in conceptually at the design level.

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Determine how features fit into the existing product design

As new features are brought to your attention for inclusion in an ongoing project, it’s important to take the time to fully assess your current design and factor in the inclusions carefully. Doing this can help you avoid major crises and team-burdening time-sucks, while also improving the quality of communication between your team and your client.

Produce a maintenance forecast

To take the preemptive approach one step further, you can create a detailed maintenance forecast, predicting how much spend and labor will be required to keep potential feature additions functioning properly long-term.

The agile methodology for testing encourages a continuous approach that facilitates development by informing team members on feature stability as a project progresses. However, each new feature takes extra time and requires additional talent commitments to keep things working smoothly. By figuring out roughly what these requirements will be ahead of time, you can make more informed decisions about new feature inclusions, while keeping current progress in mind.

Make scope creep a thing of the past

Implement the above tips on how to avoid scope creep and you’ll have no problem keeping your project scope in check.

For more info on development project planning, take a look at our article on building vs. buying your software.

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Feri Fekete

Feri Fekete

Co-founder of VeryCreatives



Digital Product Agency

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