Feature creep, also called scope creep, refers to the tendency of project requirements to exceed their original estimations. It is common with the development of major computer projects, in which engineers decide that additional features should be added to the product before release to make it more usable and enjoyable for the target market. It can also happen when the client contracting the project keeps adding to the wish list. Feature creep can affect the overall budget for a project, as well as delaying the release time considerably, causing frustration to company executives. It can also ultimately weaken a product by clogging it with interesting but unneeded features, so companies need to take care to avoid it.
The problem can be mitigated by having a tightly organized project team which recognizes the exact requirements of the project and works together to meet them. A project manager who is aware of the risks of feature creep can help to head it off at the pass by refocusing the team or reminding the client of the original goals of the project. On occasion, exceeding the estimations is actually necessary, especially with large projects in which engineers are exploring new concepts. In these instances, several team members should meet together to evaluate the feature creep which is occurring and decide whether or not it is a valid result of the direction in which the project is moving.
Especially in the case of software, the temptation to succumb to feature creep is often intense. Software developers are constantly thinking of new ways to improve their products, and at a certain point, project managers must put a stop to it. Feature creep in this case can be reduced by having frequent project meetings to remind participants in the project of the goals which were stated at the beginning. When developing any kind of new product, the team should always meet together before starting work to agree on what is being created, what the team wants it to do, and how the product will accomplish these goals.
Efforts to discourage scope creep are not designed to punish creativity. Rather, team members should make notes of additional features that they think would be interesting and useful, and should submit them along with weekly project notes. If other members of the team agree that the features are vital, they can be added to the project development. If the features are interesting but not necessary with that particular project release, they can be tabled for further development on later releases of the project, whether it be new software, a car, or any other sort of device.