Whether you are in the conceptual, planning, or execution stage, you need an appropriate work description. And even though this may seem like an obvious statement, more often than not, there is uncertainty regarding what the work entails. This is because we, as humans, tend to readily make assumptions and project our views and our understanding of things on others. For example, think about what your definition of “preparing a presentation on topic X” means. Then ask someone to describe his/her understanding of the same term and compare. Do you both agree, for example, that a presentation must contain real-world case studies to understand the topic better? Would you both include a review at the end? Would you both include a hands-on exercise? The chances are that you will both have a different vision of what the presentation must look like, but you would assume that you both have the same idea. This is because we all have images in our mind of what things are supposed to look like. For example, if I ask you to think about a dog, we will both know that it is an animal with ears, a tail, four legs, and barks. But are we both thinking of the same breed?
This is exactly what consistently happens in project work, and it is also the main cause for experiencing scope creep later on a project and change orders. Therefore, it is critical to prepare either the “project scope” or the “product scope,” we are as detailed as possible. In fact, assume that when writing your scopes, the people reading them are not very familiar with the work. Scope of services basically contracts language between a buyer and seller, which will not only guide the seller and his/her team to provide the goods or services, but it also sets limits of the work to be done, which the client will agree to and sign off.
Following are examples of a well-described scope activity excerpt versus one that is rather deficient:
“The consultant’s team members will meet with the client’s team, as needed, to coordinate all work between disciplines.”
The consultant, who wrote the scope, might have meant that the consultant’s risk manager, for example, will call the client’s counterpart and discuss a risk trigger that has been activated, and, therefore, the risk is now occurring, and they need to discuss next steps. That seems fair, professional, and responsible. However, that is not clear to everyone. In other words, the client, on the other hand, might read this as: “the consultant will come over to my office anytime I think something is crucial and we need to talk about it.” And, therefore, it means that the client has limitless access to the consultant’s staff.
A better description of this activity might be: “the consultant and his/her staff will meet with the client and/or his/her staff, upon mutual written agreement between client and project manager, to discuss critical and time-sensitive project work. This work activity is limited to 40 hours during the project lifecycle.” In this second example, the risk of scope creep is reduced since team members will have to attain prior approval for the meeting. This is important because scope creep when staff undertakes work not included in the original scope and when they perform work not authorize through proper change management procedures. Also, there is a limit of 40 hours, which cannot be exceeded unless the client authorizes this change.
The scope of services basically contracts language that describes the work to be done, as well as any particular requirements, such as permitting or government agency approvals; the acceptance criteria that the seller must meet for the buyer to accept the goods and services; and is the basis from which the schedule, budget, and other supporting activities are defined to finalize a project and/or product successfully.