Konstantin Kalinin
Konstantin Kalinin
Head of Content
March 24, 2020

Scope creep, also known as a kitchen sink syndrome, is one of the biggest problems startups face when building their mobile applications. Scope creep often begins with small changes and revisions, which end up altering the original design and intent of your project.

In building a mobile app, most developers use the minimal viable product (MVP) as the simplest and usable form of your product to meet a consumer need. The MVP allows a team to collect the maximum amount of feedback from customers with the least effort. These reviews and revisions may help fine-tune your application until you have the perfect product. However, this is a vulnerable stage to fall into the scope creep trap and lose focus.

Table of Contents:

    1. Define the Scope of your Project
    2. Plan and Validate Early
    3. Keep it Simple
    4. Identify and Manage Scope Changes
    5. Open Communication Channels Early
    6. If You’re Working on a Health App MVP

0. How do you know you’re dealing with scope creep?

When your team has to deliver more or make more changes in the project that were not part of the initial plan, you are dealing with scope creep. This may result from several factors including feedback from users, changed market factors, and changes in technology. However, since more than 80 percent of your app’s features will be unused, not all “brilliant ideas” contribute to the commercial viability and, in turn, the market value of your product.

Before your product becomes bloated with unnecessary features that will delay your release timeline and escalate the cost of development, here are a few tips to avoid scope creep for your startup product.

1. Define the Scope of your Project

The first step to keep you from veering off your target goal is having a clear goal in the first place.

Before you commence the planning process or budgeting and funding phase, ensure everyone on the team shares the single vision for the product. Not only will this keep the team focused on the target goal, but it will also help delineate relevant from non-relevant iterations during the app development process.

Not having a clear scope for your project means you may get distracted easily by the competition, so much so that you overwhelm the project with features that do not offer any competitive advantages to your product.

Not having a clear scope also means that iterations and changes can come at any time of the building process, even if it is a last-minute idea. The implications of this include an overblown budget, unnecessarily prolonged timelines, and ultimate failure of the project.

2. Plan and Validate Early

A crucial part of the planning process is the prototyping phase. This phase is key to the success of your product and it leverages adequate planning, market research, and constant evaluation of the preliminary product to provide an application that meets the user’s needs.

During the prototyping phase, you can explore ideas and run them through user tests to determine those iterations that will add to the overall purpose of the product. This, again, requires adequate market research, which involves a granular approach to identifying your target audiences. If you know your target audience, you are less likely to fall into the scope creep trap because you understand what the user wants and does not want.

Prototyping also allows you to validate your product, to ensure it aligns with what the end-user needs. This simple task saves you a lot of time and money that would have been spent creating the wrong product or adding unnecessary features. Once your prototype achieves the desired goal, you are good to go.

3. Keep it Simple

Simplicity, they say, is the ultimate sophistication. Simplicity is one feature all users want from a mobile application: the ease with which they can navigate, find features and get things done on the mobile app. Adding countless – often unnecessary features – truncate this all-too-important factor, leaving your potential customers running to the next available app on the market that can solve their problems.

CB Insights identifies poor usability as one of the reasons new products fail to retain users. The scope creep increases your risk of diluting the functionality of your product. Focus on improving your app’s design, focusing on the core-app functionality, and ignoring unnecessary iterations.

Where startups miss it is getting distracted by features in a competitor’s product and trying to imitate that by adding these features to their products. More often than not, this may derail your project, ramp up development cost, and prolong the release time of your app. If it ever gets to launch.

To avoid this, instead of analyzing the competition’s product features, you can leverage visible channels such as user reviews on app stores to identify what improvements users want to the competition’s products and what they don’t like. This can help you with the best iterations to meet users’ needs, cutting away clutters from the project.

4. Identify and Manage Scope Changes

One good way to avoid the scope creep trap is knowing how to manage scope changes effectively. Scope changes may result from changes in technology, new laws or changes to existing laws, market forces that require changing a feature, and demand from users or key stakeholders.

Identifying these scope changes early and being disciplined enough to remain consistent with the aim of the product keeps you from falling into the scope creep pit. If these changes add significantly to the effort, timeline, and cost of developing the project, you are slipping into scope creep.

Identifying scope changes allows your team to act proactively, infusing all necessary changes into the original planning process without altering the scope of the project. Identifying and reacting to these changes down the road will incur more costs and suck more time, potentially making your product fail.

5. Open Communication Channels Early

Last-minute reviews by key stakeholders or other team members of the project will likely sink the project. Early on in the development process, keep the lines of communication open so all suggestions, reviews, questions are addressed and incorporated while prototyping the app.

Establishing communication throughout your team ensures a multiplicity of ideas and design inputs that will prevent the scope creep trap. You can do this by creating a safe, non-threatening environment for people to offer feedback and raise issues – no matter how unpleasant they may first appear – that will lead to the ultimate success of your product.

6. If You’re Working on a Health App MVP

Building a Minimum Viable Product MVP for a health app comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to managing scope creep. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind to avoid unnecessary complexity and costs:

Consider White-Label Solutions

Using a white-label solution can be a strategic move during the initial phases of development. These ready-made platforms allow you to launch your product quickly and affordably, providing essential functionalities without the need for extensive custom development. However, keep in mind that while this approach can help you get started, you may eventually need to transition to a more tailored solution as your app scales.

Delay Full HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA compliance is mandatory for handling Protected Health Information (PHI), but achieving full compliance can be resource-intensive. For your MVP, consider starting with features that do not store or process PHI. This allows you to delay full HIPAA compliance until you secure additional funding, thus reducing early development costs. However, plan to incorporate necessary security measures and compliance protocols as soon as possible.

Postpone EHR Integration

Integrating Electronic Health Records (EHR) from the outset can significantly increase the complexity and cost of your MVP. Evaluate whether EHR integration is absolutely necessary for your initial release. If possible, focus on building core features first and add EHR integration in later stages. This phased approach helps you maintain control over the project scope and budget.

Leverage No-Code/Low-Code Platforms

No-code and low-code development platforms can expedite the building process and reduce costs for your health app MVP. These tools enable you to develop and test your app quickly, allowing you to gather user feedback and iterate faster. However, be aware of their limitations in terms of customization and scalability, especially if your app requires advanced medical features down the line.

By strategically prioritizing these elements, you can keep the scope of your health app MVP under control, ensuring that you deliver a functional product within budget and on time. Plan for gradual enhancements and compliance additions as your project progresses and funding increases, setting a solid foundation for future growth.

Bottom Line

With poor management of scope changes and an ill-defined scope, your product is at the mercy of distracting changes that do not add any value to its original intent. To prevent sliding into this trap, ensure you first have a clear scope for your project, a solid planning process, and a well-trained team that addresses potential changes early on in the process.

Schedule a call to learn how we’ll help you avoid scope creep on an existing or new project.

Related Articles:

    1. Outsourcing Custom Application Development Guide
    2. Agile App Development Guide
    3. App Development Costs Guide
Konstantin Kalinin

Head of Content
Konstantin has worked with mobile apps since 2005 (pre-iPhone era). Helping startups and Fortune 100 companies deliver innovative apps while wearing multiple hats (consultant, delivery director, mobile agency owner, and app analyst), Konstantin has developed a deep appreciation of mobile and web technologies. He’s happy to share his knowledge with Topflight partners.
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