Is gold plating good or bad in project management?
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Gold plating is a serious issue as not only can it lead to difficult discussions with the end users, it’s often the case that as a result of the time spent, additional budget would be needed in the long run.
For example: after having met the requirements, the project manager or the developer works on further enhancing the product, thinking the customer will be delighted to see additional or more polished features, rather than what was asked for or expected. The customer might be disappointed in the results, and the extra effort by the developer might be futile.
'Gold plating' means the addition of any feature not considered in the original scope plan (PMBOK) or product description (PRINCE2) at any point of the project. This is because it introduces a new source of risks to the original planning such as additional testing, documentation, costs, or timelines. However, avoiding gold plating does not prevent new features from being added to the project; they can be added at any time as long as they follow the official change procedure and the impact of the change in all the areas of the project is taken into consideration.
Effects of Gold Plating
Even the best outcomes of gold plating can ultimately lead to negative realities for a project manager or for the project as a whole. In a best-case scenario, the customer accepts the project deliverable with the out-of-scope work, and customer expectations on future projects may forever be elevated to unrealistic levels. In a worst-case scenario, the customer might reject the project deliverable entirely and nullify the contract.
What’s the difference between Gold Plating and Scope Creep?
The simple difference between the two comes from who requested it. If the client requested additional functionality but it was not paid for, it comes under “scope creep”, whilst if the person takes it upon themselves to add in additional functionality without checking first, this would be gold plating?
Why is gold plating a problem?
If the client or end user is getting a better product, why should gold plating matter? The main factor behind this is that the client didn’t ask for these improvements or they may perhaps not even want them/not want to move in that direction.
How to avoid gold plating in your projects?
At TIGO, our PMO office would always recommend ensuring that everyone understands the tasks that they are due to deliver, what needs to happen, what is needing to be delivered and then understands the boundaries of the tasks that they are performing. Project Managers explain all of this during the backlog /planning meetings so that everyone knows what is expected. During on-the-job training, our junior PM is guided through showing the consequences of gold plating (which can be rework/ hours not being approved) and am very strict on not only scope control but also monitoring the deliverables against the scope definition.
Gold plating is considered a bad project management practice for different project management best practices and methodologies such as Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and PRINCE2.
Being a Project Manager is not always easy, and yes, you may be seen as the strict holder of the scope definition bit both gold plating and scope creep are not good for you, your project or your organization.