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Can a Subcontractor Play a Role in Controlling Scope Creep?

Can a Subcontractor Play a Role in Controlling Scope Creep?Recently the Design-Build Institute of America posted a discussion on LinkedIn about a design builder’s role in controlling scope creep. There were several thoughtful responses on the topic, but after reading it, I began thinking about the ways Faith Technologies assists in this process and what a subcontractor’s role is in controlling scope creep.

Because approximately 30 to 50 percent of a typical construction budget is made up of subcontractors’ costs in a Design-Build or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) scenario, the subcontractors must play a major role in controlling scope creep. As experts in our chosen field, subcontractors are in the best position to provide value in the design cost balance.

To assist in this process, subcontractors need to understand the owner’s program, as well as the format for addressing scope creep. A few key points:

Owner’s Program:  A subcontractor should begin by getting answers to the following questions:

  • What is the desired goal of the project?
  • How is the owner going about tackling it?
  • Do they have criteria in place to help them make decisions?

Once this is understood, the team can measure desired wants against true needs. With this information, the subcontractor teams can provide design alternatives that meet function and budget, but may not have all of the “bells and whistles” the owner is dreaming about. This will help put the decision in the hands of the owner, and put the architect or construction manager/general contractor in a facilitator role.

Format to Address Scope Creep:  There should be an open format for discussion of potential changes to allow the entire team time to make a value decision (as stated above). At the start of the project, the subcontractor teams should understand what this process is and the format to present potential changes. Scope creep should not first be addressed when the GMP is to be signed or when crews arrive onsite. 

Subcontractors can offer valuable assistance to control scope creep:

Alternative Options:  The biggest disservice a subcontractor partner can do to an architect or construction manager/general contractor is to “dump” a design and budget issue on their plate without any sort of reasoning or alternative solution. In a Design-Build or IPD model, it is the responsibility of the subcontractor to assist their teammates through these challenging problems – whether they were caused by the subcontractor or not.  Be prepared to provide the team with clear reasoning behind the change and follow it up with potential solutions (based on my first point) that the owner or project team can consider.

Baseline Budget:  Probably one of the most important aspects of controlling scope creep is to make sure that there is a clear base line budget in place. If the base line budget is clear, then future scope changes can truly be reviewed as scope changes – not disagreements over whether or not it was part of the original budget. This can often be difficult, especially in a Design-Build or IPD scenario where the budget was developed off of a scope narrative. The subcontractor partners will need to rely on clearly communicated allowances and unit cost to help define budget parameters.

Ultimately controlling scope creep is the responsibility of the entire team, but if there is positive open communication and a clear and established process, there should not be the pain often associated with project changes.