Gold Plating

Meaning of Gold Plating, its impact on projects, and PMIism related to Gold Plating for the PMP exam

Gold Plating is giving customer extras.

In layman terms, Gold Plating is offering “freebies” to the customer.

Gold plating is delivering extras without the customer asking for it assuming that it would be beneficial to the customer. Customer isn’t going to pay for those extras because the customer didn’t ask for them. Moreover, sometimes, those extra features may not even be desired by the customer.

Gold Plating means delivering more to the customer than promised. And what did we promise? The scope baseline. The scope baseline is our promise to the customer at any time during the project. Therefore, Gold Plating is delivering features, functions or services, which are not part of the scope baseline.

Let’s consider some examples.

  1. You were managing an IT project and the customer’s requirement was for developing a website for desktop users. However, one of your team members finished his tasks ahead of schedule and voluntarily developed a mobile version of the site in addition to the desktop version. The customer was thrilled with the “freebie” and promised to give more business to your company in future. In this situation, what do you think of the team member’s action? Should the team member be rewarded or reprimanded?

  2. The customer asked for a report. The report was developed per the requirements, but the team added extra graphs and charts to make it look more beautiful.

  3. A fixed cost home renovation project had a requirement to add central air conditioning. The contractor installed the air conditioners with smart controls, which the customer didn’t ask for or paid for.

In real life, you may have heard the term “customer delight”. We are encouraged to delight the customers by promising less and delivering more.

Please understand that good project management is about delivering exactly what you promised, nothing less and nothing more.

We can still delight the customer by completing the project ahead of schedule, or below the budgeted cost, or using good project management to eliminate risk. We don’t have to gold plate the deliverables to delight the customer.

PMIism

Gold Plating is a SIN. No matter what you think or learned from personal experience, PMI does not approve of Gold Plating. As far as the PMP exam is concerned, Gold Plating is bad.

Why Gold Plating is Bad

You might be wondering what’s wrong. Let’s go over a few potential pitfalls of Gold Plating using our first example above.

  • While there was no immediate cost to your project, what if bugs are discovered with the mobile version of the site after it has been delivered to the customer? Would your company want to spend resources to support something that the customer didn’t pay or even ask for?

  • What if there were security issues with the mobile version and resulted in losses for the customer? Who would be held liable?

  • Could the team member be employed on other tasks to help finish the project early and delight the customer by cu

As you can see, there are plenty of potential issues that can result from Gold Plating even for a simple project in our example. Imagine what would happen if its a multi-million dollar large project and the organization culture encourages Gold Plating. That would be most certainly disastrous for the organization in the long run.

You may see questions on the exam that try to lure you into selecting an option that paints Gold Plating in positive light by showing several benefits of it. That’s a trap. Don’t fall for it.

In summary, Gold Plating is bad and should be avoided.

Gold Plating is not the same as Scope Creep. Read Scope Creep vs Gold Plating to understand the difference.

Last updated: August 29, 2018