Even when I write my scope of services for various clients, I find so many things missing when I take a second look. And this is because I have been carrying out my work for so many years that I automatically know everything about it. For example, if someone tells me to open the door, that is all I need, unless there is a special trick to opening a particular door. Therefore, I always put myself in the place of someone who has no idea what they are requesting. And I return to my example of opening a door; you would have to describe the motion, such as gripping the doorknob, turning it right or left, and then pushing or pulling. This is too much information since a person will quickly figure out how to open the door, but it would make things crystal clear, which is what you want in the scope of services. You almost have to imagine what it will look like if there is a claim against you, for example, and how you would have to demonstrate to an attorney or judge that you provided the services you promised.
A long time ago, I inherited a construction project in which the previous project manager had agreed to “perform all services necessary to obtain a building permit” from the local jurisdiction. And what is wrong with that, since we were working for an architectural/civil engineering company? And we were experts in obtaining building permits. For starters, it is not a good idea to use the words “all” and “any” in the scope of services, which is part of a legal agreement. And why is that? Because the words “all” and “any” are limitless, they do not provide a pre-determined amount. Therefore, the work performed could go on forever and ever, regardless of what is going on. For example, if the client misses a deadline to submit documentation and funds to the local jurisdiction, which leads to more re-submittals and reviews, etc., the consultant would need to continue assisting the client until they receive their building permit. Now a judge might side with the consultant and deem the client unreasonable for expecting so much additional work for free. Still, by then, the consultant would have invested time and money fighting this case, in addition to lawyer fees, plus loss of business from this client. However, had the consultant rewritten the above sentence to read: “provide up to 40 hours of consultant services to obtain a building permit,’ then it would be clear to both client and consultants what the expectation is,
To re-emphasize a scope of services, it has to be very detailed and laid out to avoid misunderstandings. It protects all sides and clearly describes expectations and the work associated with achieving them. It may seem rather nit-picky and aggressive at the start. It might also seem like you will “nickel-and-dime” your client throughout the project lifecycle. Still, it is always best to be straightforward from the start rather than wait until something goes wrong and then try to explain what You meant in your scope, which in and of itself is problematic. If you have to “explain” what you meant when you wrote your scope, it follows that it was not clearly detailed and requires interpretation later on.