April 3rd, 2024

When it comes to service-based businesses, one of the most frustrating and costly mistakes any business owner can make has to do with phantom deliverables and scope creep. If left unchecked, you can not only burn your team members out quicker, but all the extra work and resources can quickly start to eat into your profit margins and impede your business’s ability to grow and scale. So today, I want to share three tips on how to stop phantom deliverables dead in their tracks before they become an issue in your business.

Identify Phantom Deliverables Before They Occur

Playing a little game of “what if” before any project is a great way to get ahead of phantom deliverables. A good business owner will look at a project or task and think about all the different ways that a project could go sideway, and then map out how to keep that from happening in the future. And of course the longer you are in an industry, the easier it is to spot these areas of concern. I saw a really good example of this recently when I enlisted the help of a design/development team to work on a website project of mine. During our kick-off call, they were very adamant that we get clear on the project outline and site map prior to the contract being signed. They wanted to determine the specific number of pages and elements that were to be created beforehand, to ensure that everyone was on the page from day one. Having worked with hundreds of agencies over the past 25 years, this approach was refreshing, because I knew that the reason behind their actions was to ensure that phantom deliverables be managed from the very start, which was a smart move on their part.

Set Expectations With Your Team and Clients

And to further eliminate the possibility of scope creep, everyone I talk to or work with within the organization deals with project tasks in a similar manner. They are clear upfront about the expectations–what will and will not be included in a design phase for instance–and they set clear deadlines as to when a review needs to take place. And they remind their clients that if the deadline goes past or the tasks within a project change, that will affect the scope and timeline of the project as a whole.

Audit Often to Prevent Scope Creep

No project is perfect, and scope creep will always occur to a certain degree. But how you address it when it pops up makes a huge difference. If, for instance, during the course of my website project, we discover that we need a new feature added to improve the user experience on the site, adjustments will need to be made. The development team will assess the need to ensure that it is crucial to the success of the project, and then work with the client to adjust the timeline and budget to reflect that new feature. Or at the very least, add it to a phase two of the project for a fast follow.

Scope creep is difficult to avoid, but it can absolutely be managed with a little bit of planning beforehand. Good luck!