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What is Gold Plating?

Smartpedia: Gold Plating refers to a situation in which a supplier, with a positive intention, delivers more than agreed, but thereby puts the client in a difficult situation.

Gold Plating – Unnecessarily Gilding the Delivery

Gold Plating refers to a situation in which a supplier delivers more to a customer than the latter has agreed with him. While the supplier’s purpose in overfulfilling the agreed performance is positive, this presents the client and recipient with possible problems. In the figurative sense, Gold Plating can be understood as the ( unnecessary gilding of a delivery or service.

Both the US standard for project management, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and the British project management method PRINCE2 consider features that go beyond the defined scope of functions to be gold plating. PMBOK records defined services in the Scope Plan and PRINCE2 writes them down in a product description. In principle, however, every service is considered Gold Plating which goes beyond the scope of services described – e.g. in the form of a customer specification. From the point of view of quality assurance, this also violates the test criterion “Absence of unspecified functionalities (by the customer)”.

The Consequences of Gold Plating

While the supplier – possibly in the sense of the Kano Model – wants to impress his client, he has to deal with the possible consequences of overfulfilment:

  • What does the feature do? How can it be tested? Who bears the costs for the test?
  • Does the feature possibly represent a risk? How does it interact with other features?
  • How is the functionality documented? Does it appear in the user manual or in the change log?
  • What are the consequences for the care and maintenance of the feature? Who bears the possible costs if the feature causes problems in the application?
  • Who pays for the new feature? Are development costs charged to the manufacturer accordingly?
  • Can the feature be removed or at least switched off? What are the consequences of both variants?

If one of these points is unclear or controversial, there may be a delay in acceptance by the customer. In this way, the contractor, often in the role of customer advisor, project manager or developer, actually achieves exactly the opposite of what he had hoped for from overfulfilment: Recognition, enthusiasm, future collaboration.

Ideally, a supplier should coordinate with his client if he wants to do something good with additional features. Although this eliminates a surprise effect, it also reduces possible risks and problems.

Gold Plating - Unnecessarily Gilding the Delivery


A similar topic as Gold Plating is addressed by the term overengineering.

The term gold plating is also used in politics. It describes the alleged overfulfilment of EU directives by individual member states at the expense of national legal systems and national economies. In this sense, gold plating is a sign of over-regulation.

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Here you will find additional information from our Smartpedia section:

Smartpedia: What is Overengineering?

What is Overengineering?

Smartpeda: What is an Acceptance?

What is an Acceptance?