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Understanding gold plating and scope creep in project management

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Updated on:
June 29, 2024
June 29, 2024
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In project management, “gold plating” and “scope creep” are big headaches that can mess up your project scope and throw a wrench in your progress. 

Gold plating is when the team adds extra bells and whistles beyond what the client asked for, which can lead to cost overruns and delays. Scope creep happens when changes or additions are made to the project without adjusting resources, requirements, or schedules. Both can blow up your budget and need to be managed with solid change management strategies.

Introduction to gold plating in project management

Gold plating in project management is all about delivering more than what was originally planned. This usually means adding extra features to wow the client. But, this can lead to issues like scope creep, messing up your budget, schedule, and progress. It can also increase risks since changes might not go through a proper change management process. It’s key for the project manager and team to stick to the agreed deliverables to avoid these pitfalls.

Definition of gold plating

Gold plating in project management is when the team adds extra features or work outside the agreed scope. It goes beyond what the client needs and often doesn’t come with extra costs, which can mess up the budget and schedule. While it might seem like a good idea, it often leads to issues like increased risks, scope creep, and delays. It needs a solid change management approach to avoid straying from the project requirements. So, for effective management, it’s important to steer clear of gold plating.

Benefits of using Bonsai for managing tasks

Using Bonsai for task management brings several benefits that can transform the way project managers and teams operate:

1. Increased Productivity

Bonsai's task management tools help prioritize tasks, allowing teams to focus on high-value activities, leading to quicker task completion and increased productivity.

Link to Task Management

2. Enhanced Collaboration

With features like shared tasks, task lists, and task publishing, Bonsai fosters cross-team collaboration, ensuring tasks are completed efficiently and seamlessly.

3. Streamlined Workflow

Task automation and integration with other tools provide a seamless workflow, reducing manual workload and simplifying the tracking of work progress.

Link to Task Management

4. Clear Task Organization

Bonsai's task hierarchies and lists maintain a well-structured workflow, which is crucial for remote teams and agencies to collaborate effectively.

5. Effective Task Tracking

Timely notifications and task tracking ensure that no task is overlooked, promoting efficient outcomes in team projects.

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6. Task Delegation

The delegation of tasks frees up time for strategic activities, enhancing overall team efficiency.

By leveraging these features, Bonsai helps teams optimize their task management processes, leading to better project outcomes and a more productive work environment.

How gold plating occurs in projects

Gold plating happens when the team adds extra features or activities beyond the project scope. This often happens when managers or team members think that adding extras will impress the client. However, it usually leads to issues and risks. It can complicate things by disrupting the schedule and inflating the budget. Plus, it can distract the team from the original requirements. To prevent scope creep, integrated change management is essential.

Understanding the impact of gold plating


Gold plating in projects brings a heap of problems. It mainly causes scope creep—adding features that bloat the project beyond its original plan. This messes with the schedule and budget, as the team spends more time and resources on unnecessary extras.

Moreover, it heightens risks and complicates change management. The project manager might lose grip on progress, shifting focus to unapproved extras instead of meeting client needs, leading to unwanted deliverables.

The negative effects of gold plating

Gold plating makes projects messy and delayed. Here’s how it harms:

  • Scope creep: Adding unnecessary features expands the project scope, making management tough.
  • Budget and schedule strain: Extra features not in the original plan eat up time and money.
  • Increased risks: Changes not vetted properly can derail meeting client needs.
  • Management hassle: The project manager must keep progress steady, avoiding unnecessary frills that can hinder success.

Real-life examples of gold plating in project management

Gold plating means adding features beyond the original project scope. For instance:

  • Software projects: Teams include unrequested features, messing up the budget and timeline.
  • Quality upscaling: Project managers improve deliverables without stakeholder approval, raising risks and misaligning priorities.
  • Exceeding client needs: Teams produce more than required, causing scope creep and slowing progress.

Introduction to scope creep in project management

Scope creep is a major issue in project management. It happens when the project scope expands beyond initial goals due to extra features or changing needs. This threatens progress, budget, and schedule. Effective management through integrated change strategies is crucial to prevent scope creep from derailing deliverables.

Definition of scope creep

Scope creep means uncontrolled expansion in project scope. It happens when the team goes beyond initial requirements, adding extra features. This often disrupts progress, budget, and increases risks. Without effective change management, scope creep can harm project success and fail to meet client needs.

How scope creep occurs in projects

Scope creep occurs when project scope, outlined initially, expands gradually. Frequent changes in deliverables, though minor, significantly impact progress, budget, and schedule. Teams might add features beyond client needs, leading to management issues.

Despite structured change management, lack of control can introduce risks. The project manager must ensure any scope changes are processed formally to keep the project on track, avoiding delays and cost overruns.

Understanding the impact of scope creep

Scope creep when extra stuff gets added after the project kicks off, without changing time, money, or resources. This messes up schedules and can wreck the whole project.

These tweaks seem small but pack a punch on deliverables, budget, and risk. The project team and manager must keep an eye out and manage changes to meet client needs without messing up the original plan.

The negative effects of scope creep

Scope creep, uncontrolled changes in project scope, causes big headaches. It throws off schedules, delaying deliverables. Teams might add extras not in the original plan, hiking the budget and adding financial strain.

Scope creep ramps up risks. Without managing changes right, the project’s progress stumbles, and client needs get missed. It piles pressure on the project manager and throws the whole scope out of whack.

Real-life examples of scope creep in project management

Take a client who, halfway through, wants new features not in the original scope. This bloats the project, squeezing the schedule and budget, and piling on new risks.

It’s the same when the team takes on tasks outside their original deliverables without change management. This burdens the project manager, stretching efforts to meet client demands and causing more issues.

Comparing gold plating and scope creep

Gold plating and scope creep are project issues that mess with progress, schedule, and budget. Gold plating adds extras the client didn’t ask for, while scope creep means uncontrolled scope growth, like changing deliverables or client needs without adjusting time, cost, or resources.

Both drain resources, causing missed targets and higher costs. Integrated change management by the project team is key to handling these changes right.

Similarities between gold plating and scope creep

Gold plating and scope creep share issues that bog down projects and hike risks. Gold plating adds features beyond requirements, not in the original scope. Scope creep expands the project scope due to changing client needs or expectations.

Both disrupt schedules and inflate budgets. They overwork the team, slashing productivity. They might not even improve deliverables, causing stakeholder gripes.

So, managing changes well is crucial to sidestep or handle these problems.

Differences between gold plating and scope creep

In project management, gold plating and scope creep are different but risky. Gold plating adds features or functions beyond requirements without client input or budget changes, usually to over-deliver.

Scope creep, though, is uncontrolled scope changes. It’s driven by changing client needs without adjusting time, cost, or resources, impacting schedules and overall progress.

Strategies to prevent gold plating and scope creep


Nail down that project scope to dodge scope creep. From the get-go, make sure every project requirement, deliverable, and client need is crystal clear and locked in by the team. Any tweaks? They gotta go through the proper change management process.

For gold plating, just stick to the plan. No sneaky extras. Adding features not in the original scope throws off progress, budget, and schedule, hiking up risks. Stick to what’s approved to keep the project on track.

Effective communication in project management

In project management, good communication is key. It's all about turning project scope into clear requirements and keeping the team on the same page. A solid project manager keeps stakeholders in the loop, manages the budget and schedule, and keeps risks in check. Watch out for scope creep – those extra features can derail the project without change management.

Three communication must-haves:

  • Clear scope and deliverables.
  • Regular progress updates, including budget and schedule.
  • Proactive risk and scope creep management with change strategies.

Using project management tools: Bonsai, Asana, Trello, and Jira

Tools like Bonsai, Asana, Trello, and Jira are lifesavers for project managers. They help outline the project scope, list deliverables, and manage the schedule, helping to dodge scope creep by keeping changes in check.

These tools support change management by logging and communicating project tweaks accurately, ensuring budget adherence. They also help spot and handle risks, keeping timelines and client needs on track.

Link to Client Management

Project management tools are essential for professional service providers and small businesses to streamline their workflow. Bonsai offers an integrated suite of tools designed to assist with the various aspects of managing projects efficiently.

Here are the key features of Bonsai CRM:

  • Complete CRM that automates client, project & finance management
  • User-friendly dashboard & visual planning
  • Complete document management & e-signing
  • Team collaboration and time tracking
  • 1000+ free customizable templates
  • Meeting scheduling & calendar management
  • Invoicing & payments, accounting, tax & banking

Bonsai is a powerful ally for those looking to manage their projects with greater precision and professionalism.

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Conclusion: Managing gold plating and scope creep

To keep scope creep and gold plating in check, clear communication of the project scope and deliverables is key. Avoiding unnecessary extras keeps the budget in line and progress on track. Use change management to handle client needs while sticking to project requirements and mitigating risks.

Key takeaways for agencies

Good project management ensures the project scope is clear and deliverables are on time. Managers must vigilantly monitor progress to avoid scope creep, manage requirements, and avoid unnecessary extras. Identifying and mitigating risks protects the budget, and change management aligns with client needs and smooths team cooperation.

Future trends in project management

Looking ahead, three trends will shape project management:

  1. Tech boosts efficiency and precision in managing scope, schedule, and budget. AI and machine learning will help predict and mitigate risks.
  2. Integrated change management becomes crucial to handle scope creep and project changes, keeping progress aligned with client needs and budget intact.
  3. Project managers need adaptive teams to navigate dynamic environments and handle unforeseen issues.
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