Date posted: 09/06/2022 5 min read

Stop scope creep in its tracks

It can be damaging to your practice in a number of ways, so how can you avoid scope creep? Brought to you by Ignition.

Most accountants know the drill. A client makes contact and asks for one more job to be carried out, small enough that its lack of inclusion in the agreed-upon work doesn’t seem worth mentioning, but big enough for the favour to take several hours from your team’s day.

It’s called scope creep and, according to Rebecca Mihalic CA, director of BusinessDEPOT and head of accounting at Ignition APAC, it is one of the largest problems faced by accounting professionals today.

“I define scope creep as anything that we have to do for our clients that we didn’t agree to upfront in the engagement,” says Mihalic, who has written a helpful report on how to best deal with the problem. “It is also caused if the parameters of the work we agreed to during the original engagement are changed.”

Mihalic’s report, The Accountants’ Guide to Managing Scope Creep, goes beyond more than offering tips on how to deal with the pervasive issue. It concisely describes the ways it can hamper businesses.

A problem with many faces

As the report outlines, the setbacks arising out of scope creep can be as simple as lost time through unpaid work, leading to profitability, productivity and cash flow issues. Another common problem is the reputational damage brought about by trying to wrangle scope creep after the fact – such as when clients are shocked by unexpected invoices.

“This is what happens when a business deals with scope creep in a reactive way,” says Mihalic. “You often have to decide between just doing work that isn’t paid, or trying to recover the costs and having an uncomfortable conversation with your client.”

Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of scope creep is the compliance issues it can cause. When you do work that’s not established in your engagement letter and sits outside your professional indemnity, you can face legal and insurance problems. Worse still, it can be substantially more difficult for professional bodies to support practitioners in the event of a dispute.

Fortunately, tackling scope creep proactively can help resolve all these issues.

Mihalic’s paper outlines in detail the steps that should be taken to ensure scope creep becomes a thing of the past.

“The most important thing is to understand in detail what your scope is. That’s all about your engagement.”

Rebecca Mihalic CA

“The most important thing is to understand in detail what your scope is. That’s all about your engagement.”
Rebecca Mihalic CA

Technology platforms such as Ignition can automate much of this process. What makes Ignition stand out is that CA ANZ members receive exclusive service and pricing templates as well as access to specialised onboarding and support. The latest CA ANZ engagement letter template – that can be quickly modified to suit business needs – is available within Ignition for members.

“Armed with a deep knowledge of scope, you can quickly identify when you have gone out of scope and use that information to have a quick conversation with your client about it before moving on,” she says.

“That understanding is essential, as is the fast implementation of a process that involves, if scope creep has been identified, putting tools down, having that conversation with the client, getting authority and moving on with the job. It will save money, relationships, productivity and profitability.”

Mihalic’s report offers more advice, and outlines valuable processes to have in place to ensure any scope creep doesn’t cause damage. Get your copy here.

Find out more:

With a foreword from manager, professional standards at CA ANZ, Kristen Wydell, The Accountants Guide to Managing Scope Creep is free and available to all CA ANZ members. Visit to download it.