In this episode of THE SAMPLE, Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA answers the question, “What is scope creep?”
Welcome to The Sample, a quick discussion of auditing concepts and terms that will help you do your work. Conducting an audit in accordance with auditing standards is no small feat and I want to support you. We’ll be referring to the GAO, IIA and AICPA literature to bolster our conversations. Let’s get started.
This episode, we answer the question, “What is scope creep?” Isn’t that a funny title? And this funny picture. It’s not so funny when it happens to you, however. When your project goes off the rails, because you saw a shiny object and you decided to go look at it and it’s going to make your audit report all bizarre.
Here’s your objective and scope in this bigger bubble, and then these smaller bubbles represent things that are outside of your objective and scope, and when you see something like that, when you see something that’s outside of your objective and scope, you have to formally take care of it. I’m going to draw a little picture to illustrate this. Watch my fabulous drawing skills here.
So here’s your objective and scope, and then you get into a meeting with a chatty Cathy, and she starts telling you stuff that was not part of your objective and scope. And now, darn it, now you know this thing and you can’t ignore it. You can’t pretend like you didn’t see it. You really shouldn’t take it on, right? But now you have to do something with it.
Or maybe you made the mistake of being in an interview and asking a question that’s way too broad, like, “Tell me about your processes. What’s going on around here?” Okay? Then these things come up that you really didn’t want to know about. Because it’s not part of the objective that you took about 25% of your audit budget to come up with, where you gathered information, you broke the universe into pieces, you did a inherent risk assessment. And then you finally land on, “Okay, this is the highest risk thing that I want to look at,” and then somehow something else gets thrown into the mix.
Now you’ve got to think about it, now that you’ve got this thing out there. You’ve got some options. You could kind of incorporate it into your existing objective and scope; you could bring it into the project. It looks like a turtle. That means you get to go back to your risk assessment and your planning documentation, and you get to change it to incorporate this guy. And you’ve got to know that possibly your audit report is going to end up looking a little silly because you’re going to have this main objective and then this other little tack on thing. Or you could cut this piece off and create a separate project for it, or put it in the hopper for next year’s audit planning. But I would advise you always to let the client know about this thing. Whether or not you decide to tackle it is really up to you and your project manager and how closely you can get it to align to this objective and scope.
Here’s what you don’t want to happen, okay? Here’s what you want to avoid. You want to avoid opening up this objective and scope, kind of like erasing the boundaries by taking this thing on without doing one of those formal things. What are those formal things? I’ll come back to this picture in a minute. Remember: take it on and revise your scope and objective, refer it to future planning, create a new project for it, formally inform the client. These are your rational choices.
Irrational would be ignoring it, or just taking it on without doing one of those four things, because what you’ve done now is you’ve kind of exploded your protective bubble. You’ve erased the boundaries and now you’re responsible for all kinds of stuff that you really don’t want to be responsible for, various shapes and forms and colors, and I could go on and on and on. You don’t want to be responsible for all this stuff. You just want to be responsible for this stuff in here, okay?
So if you hear yourself saying, while you’re looking at some data, you’re looking at some files, your interview, and you say, “Well, I know what my objective is, but while I’m here, why don’t I just look at this?” Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Nope. Slap yourself. Rise; go somewhere. Get a breath of fresh air. Come back. Look at your objective, study it, read it again, remind yourself how you want to finish this project sometime this century, and get back to your original objective and scope. That’s how you fight the ugly monster scope creep.
That wraps it up for another episode of The Sample. True to the nature of a sample, we didn’t talk about everything, so you’ve probably got questions. Write to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to fill in the blanks. Thanks for playing.
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