Who among us likes creeps? We stay away from them because they have a tendency to do more harm than good. That said, there is more than one type of creep. Sometimes a creep is a person, other times it is something intangible. Take project management. There are four types of creeps capable of killing just about any project.

Those four creeps are:

  • Requirement creep
  • Feature creep
  • Scope creep
  • Budget creep.

You could make the case that several of these things overlap. Nonetheless, Georgia-based Janiko Group prefers to look at them individually. Managing each one successfully increases the chances of a project finishing on schedule, on budget, and according to original specs. Mismanaging even one of the four can ruin everything.

1. Requirement Creep

Every project starts with its base requirements. If it’s an IT project, those requirements touch everything from software to network infrastructure. If you are looking at a construction project, basic requirements run the gamut from architectural standards to building code compliance.

Requirement creep occurs when circumstances change things. For example, consider a change in local fire codes. A company may have obtained approval for a new facility in Q4, only to discover that local codes have changed by the time they start building in Q2 of the following year. With the new codes come requirement changes.

There are times when requirement creep simply cannot be avoided. There are other times when it can be. It takes a skilled project management team to know and understand the difference.

2. Feature Creep

Certain types of projects are prone to feature creep. This sort of thing occurs when the client decides to add features to original plans. Feature creep is observed in software projects, construction projects, manufacturing projects, and so forth. Wherever features are integral to a product or service, feature creep is a very real possibility.

3. Scope Creep

There are other types of projects that don’t necessarily focus on features per se. They are more broad in nature. Such projects are more likely to suffer from scope creep, a scenario in which the project is continually expanded in response to the client wanting to cover more ground. IT projects frequently suffer from scope creep.

Imagine a company embarking on a new project to better facilitate remote work. Several months into the implementation stage, someone gets the idea that this would be a good time to further expand HR capabilities. The need to address HR may or may not be legitimate. But even if it is, doing it now runs the risk of expanding the scope of the original project, leading to cost overruns and missed deadlines.

4. Budget Creep

Last but not least is budget creep. It can occur on its own. More often than not though, it is the result of not controlling the previous three creeps. Requirement, feature, and scope creep all drive budget creep by continually requiring more money to get the project done.

Budget creep is often difficult to control because standard budget analyses do not account for the smallest expenditures. It is not until later that project managers and department heads finally realize that all of those little things add up.

Project managers know all too well that the four creeps discussed in this post have the uncanny ability to kill projects. Even those projects that survive rarely turn out as intended. The lesson here is simple: successfully completing projects on time and on budget requires managing requirement, feature, scope, and budget creep. Do so successfully and things will turn out well most of the time.