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Definition

gold plating

Gold plating is the practice of making changes to a project that are outside of the original agreed-upon scope.

Gold plating takes time. The practice is very similar to feature creep, which involves enhancements tacked onto a project at the request of the client. In the case of gold plating, though, developers may add polish or features that weren’t asked for, with the intention of adding value and impressing the client.

Gold plating is generally seen as a poor practice. Despite best intentions, the added work is often risky. Gold plating may take longer than anticipated, pushing a project past its due date. The additional changes can even have a negative effect on the existing functionality. However, even if it works out as intended, a client may not need or even like the added efforts.  In addition to its other drawbacks, gold plating can also make it impossible to sell the client additional features after the agreed-upon scope has been met.

Developers sometimes make the mistake of gold plating trying to impress important clients -- particularly if the developers or project managers are less experienced. Although gold plating is often seen as a flaw in project management, it may be carried out by the employees without knowledge of the project manager as a secretive “skunkworks” side-project.

In light of the risk-reward ratio, gold plating is typically not worthy of the invested time.

This was last updated in February 2016

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