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Scope creep affects businesses of all sizes across industries, and it comes with a hefty cost. Did you know scope creep affects about 34% of projects, and only 62% of projects are completed within budget? That’s a lot of wasted time and money. There’s good news, however: You can prevent scope creep by taking a few simple steps, like strengthening your master service agreement and developing detailed project plans.

woman at work aiming to prevent scope creep

Chances are scope creep has affected your business and team at some point. Perhaps important stakeholders decided to change direction in the middle of a project, or a client requested several last-minute changes at the end of a project. Many business owners have had similar experiences, but you can prevent scope creep from happening in the first place with these five strategies.

1. Develop a Permanent Master Service Agreement for All Engagements

First things first: Develop a detailed and clear master service agreement that protects you and your business, and use it for all of your engagements. Using the same master agreement prevents confusion among your sales and production teams, as well as returning clients. It can also keep important scope-related clauses from falling through the cracks. Consistency is key.

2. Ensure Your Master Agreement Includes a Valid and Enforceable Merger/Integration Clause

Sometimes, scope creep takes place whenever a client references deliverables from former agreements. Including a merger clause in your latest agreement invalidates those former agreements. A merger clause, sometimes referred to as an integration clause, states that the terms of the contract are the complete and final agreement between the parties. 

By including a valid and enforceable merger clause in your master agreement, you’re preventing the other party (your client) from suing you for breach of your contract based on past agreements you have had together. 

In essence, your new agreement will supersede all other agreements you’ve had with your client. It’s one strategy to keep your client from quoting past agreements as an excuse to change your scope of work in the middle of a project. 

3. Attach a Detailed Scope of Work or Project Plan to Your Master Agreement

The more detailed your scope of work or project plan, the better. Including important project details like the total number of deliverables, types of deliverables, milestones and deadlines brings everyone on the same page before signing the agreement. 

At the end of the day, a clear and descriptive scope of work can help your projects run smoothly while keeping everyone accountable. If you’re ever unsure about what you should or shouldn’t include in your scope of work, reach out to your legal team or business attorney for guidance. 

4. Schedule Handoff Meetings Between Sales & Production Teams

Effective communication between your sales and production teams is critical if you want to prevent scope creep. Before the production team begins working with your client, make sure they meet with the sales team to learn everything they can about the client. 

Your sales team should ensure the production team knows exactly which deliverables need to be provided to the client, along with milestones and deadlines. By the end of the handoff meeting, the production team should have a strong understanding of the scope of work to prevent scope creep from happening in the first place.

learning how to prevent scope creep in a contract

This handoff meeting is also a good time to address any and all questions the sales and production teams may have about the client and project. Clarifying even the smallest of details can help your business avoid awkward conversations with clients down the road, and prevent refunds, lost revenue, and burnt out staff

5. Schedule Internal Follow-Up Meetings to Ensure Accountability

Similar to the previous step, clear and consistent communication between your sales and production teams is essential. Make sure to schedule follow-up meetings between your sales and production teams at preset milestones to make sure everyone is on the same page throughout the duration of a project. 

Again, frequent communication keeps everyone accountable. No one likes finger-pointing in the workplace when something goes wrong with a client, especially when it relates to scope creep. Integrating follow-ups into your project plans can keep both your team and clients happy.

Prevent Scope Creep with a Business Attorney You Can Depend On

As you can see, you have the power to prevent scope creep from happening in the first place. By strengthening your master service agreement, developing detailed scopes of work and enhancing internal communication, you can keep projects moving forward within budget.

Taking the steps listed here can also help you improve customer and employee satisfaction at the same time. It’s a win-win scenario for all parties.

If you need help writing a master agreement for upcoming projects, or developing internal processes that keep projects moving forward, please connect with our team. Our Business Accelerator Program is a great place to start if you’re seeking a strong legal foundation for your business. We’ve helped several businesses prevent scope creep, and we’re committed to supporting businesses that want to achieve sustainable growth for years to come. 

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