4 Steps to Manage Feature Creep
By Hans Lambert Pedersen
When feature creep becomes a dual problem between the product and project scope, how do you fix it? Discover four simple steps to successfully manage it and save your company a considerable amount of time and resources.
After discussing how to avoid “feature creep” with your digital product in our last article, we thought it would be wise to take it one step further and discuss what goes into managing a situation where creeping featurism already exists.
Here’s our tried and tested four-step approach designed to keep your digital product functional and profitable.
How to deal with feature creep/scope creep
Whether you call it feature creep, scope creep, software bloat, or requirements creep, you still face the same digital disaster.
When attempting to design, develop and launch a digital product, the last thing we want are words like “bloating” and “creeping” associated with its usability.
But this can be hard to avoid, especially in large teams where months of planning can be overlooked by “shiny object syndrome” and additional “gold plating”.
And not to mention various minor bugs and fixes you’re bound to encounter along the way.
After accepting the product is feature creeping, rather than instinctively adding more to improve, you must learn to first take away.
Just imagine you’re playing music in a band. To best serve the song, other players must learn to take a back seat from time to time. If Roger Taylor started drumming over Brian May’s guitar solo in Queen’s hit song, “We Will Rock You”, it would have sounded awful. The key is to stay focused on its initial purpose of sounding good and pleasing the listener. The same principle applies when you address feature creep.
1. Strip it back (Readdress the product scope)
Cutting away features you’ve spent time on can feel like giving away old sentimental possessions. But the best way to fix feature creeping is to remember the purpose of your digital product by readdressing your product scope.
What is a product scope?
The product scope consists of all the functions, features, and technical specifications contained in the digital product. Drawing back and comparing our product scope alongside the usability pyramid of “useful, usable, and used” can remind us of our initial values and purpose for our digital product.
- Are all our features delivering this purpose?
- What features take away from the usability of our product?
Fixing feature creep is achieved by bringing the product back to a point where the design is based purely on the target audience.
Periodic product analytics review
To gather clear signs of the small subset of features users need and depend on for the success of your product, apply periodic product analytics reviews to spot which cohorts of users use specific features.
By supporting this method, you can also gather user behaviour insights by segmenting the market into different needs and identifying the most valuable features to the user.
So remember, to bring your digital product back to life, you must strip it back. If not, there is no room for anything new, and you deliver the product you believed was right 5-10 years ago rather than what you know today.
2. Initiate a change control process (Readdress the project scope)
Any technical changes to our digital product may affect the project schedule and need to be restructured within our project scope.
What is the difference between project scope and product scope?
The project scope consists of the processes required by personnel to deliver the product scope effectively. As feature creep can alter our product scope, it may affect our project scope, disrupting both sides.
To prevent any further disruption caused by our feature creeping product, we initiate a change control process.
A change control process assesses all the necessary changes affecting the project scope to be evaluated and approved by those in charge of delivering the product scope successfully.
How to implement a change control process?
- Correctly plan a proposed change to the project scope by referring to any alterations made to the product scope.
- Set aside goals to implement this change successfully.
- Analyse this change and consider the effects on the project scope.
- Correctly review all changes and make a qualified decision based on resources, workforce, and time.
- Implement the change with regular reviews on goals and performance.
Communication is key to maintaining the continuity of your project scope. Ensure all team members are clear on the objectives and roles before breaking down each task into manageable chunks of allocated time.
3. Avoid “gold plating”
Similar to “shiny object syndrome”, “gold plating” is a temptation to add additional value to your project. When things aren’t going well, the instinct can be to add, not take away. But this is only going to make things worse.
Unhappy clients can bring pressure to "make things better", but don’t make more features. Remember, feature creep is defined by our digital product having excessive features. So before we make it better, we must take features away first to solve the issue.
To be fair to your clients, you must be honest and show them to improve their digital product sometimes requires going back to the basics before adding additional value again.
4. Reference past products/projects
If you’ve already delivered a successful digital product, this could be a good reference for how to fix your current feature creep.
- Perhaps you were too ambitious with your latest project?
- What did you do differently in the past?
It might be a case where your team has increased with more professionals on the project trying to make their mark, or you’ve upgraded your processes with new technology. Sometimes just referring to past projects can be an effective way to remind your design and development processes of what works well and what doesn’t.
Speak to a specialist feature creep fixer
At Stoked, we find the issue of feature creep often arises with project management and communication issues. Despite it being a problem with the product, we forget to address the project scope.
Focusing on the product too much can cause us to oversee the cause, such as addressing how added external influences can apply too many features. We always aim to stay focused on the original idea while remaining flexible to necessary changes.
So, if you have a feature creep problem and require some guidance, get in touch today.