The importance of writing a “great” scope of services:
How many times are we disappointed because we did not get what we felt we asked for? And how many times have clients and/or other stakeholders told you that their expectations were not met? If you answer “not many,” then you are one of the few people who write very detailed scopes and do not leave much to interpretation and/or to assumptions.
More often than not, we look at work, life, ethics and so on throughout our own prism, which is normal and helpful because it is what helps us establish relationships with like-minded people, whether they are spouses, friends, or clients and associates. By expressing our opinions and how we see the world, we are sending a message to others of the kind of people we are and what our expectations are. This applies also to our work and the work-ethic we hold dear.
So how does this relate to a scope of services? The scope describes exactly what the project and/or product we want should look like, feel like, and how it should work, whether it is a building, a software program, or a workshop. The scope defines how many floors there should be in a building, what functions are needed in the computer program, or what the content of a workshop needs to be. But it has to go beyond that. For example, let’s take the simpler of these examples: the workshop. Clients and/or other stakeholders might “assume” that a workshop comes with an implied guarantee that it will change, for the better, the day-to-day operations of their company through the training received by participants. As a trainer and consultant, this has happened to me. However, this expectation needs to be addressed in the scope of services to avoid confusion later, and it needs to be described clearly and it has to be measurable.
For example, the following verbiage could be included in the scope: “…The consultant/trainer shall provide training services, which will increase efficiency in the work executed by the workshop participants. Said efficiency shall be measured by a decrease in missed deadlines at a minimum of 10%, as well as decreasing cost overruns by 8%. These measurements shall be performed by the consultant and six (6) months after the workshop is completed. If this efficiency is met or exceeded, then…If the efficiency goal is not met, then…”
In the above example, the expectation (efficiency) is described and is measurable (10% and 8%.) By including this verbiage in the scope, it makes it clear to both parties, buyer and seller, as to what the goal is and, later, how to test it to make sure said goal was met. It is fair to both parties and will help avoid discrepancies in the future, as well as potential claims, should there be a disagreement as to what was planned. In other words, we are trying to avoid using the term “I had assumed…” For example, if a client says, I had assumed the improvement in efficiency would also include a metric for quality, such as “a decrease in generating faulty products of 10% or more.” Although the latter requirement makes sense and would be advantageous, if it was not included in the scope, then it was never a part of it.
The point of writing a great scope of services is not to later dig one’s heels in, or be flexible, or take a strong stand using the scope as contract language in order to avoid doing extra work, which, as we all know, is the best way to lose clients, but rather it is meant to protect both parties and ensure that the correct information is provided to all the stakeholders, which does not only include the client, but also the project team, vendors, suppliers, and other key stakeholders.
Just remember, when you are writing your scope, imagine it is for an audience that has little idea of what the work you are doing is. In other words, leave little to no room for doubt or misinterpretation, And, again, the best way to do this, is to make the success criteria measurable and tied to a metric of some sort, but preferably a numeric one.