Taming Scope Creep in Community Consulting: Your Essential Guide
Updated: Jul 25
The Reality of Scope Creep in Community Consulting
Is scope creep real? Absolutely! When a consultant begins a project, they deliver a specific scope of work, but more often than not, a consultant might discover a client requesting additional tasks.
This phenomenon, aptly named scope creep, can subtly derail projects and lead to unexpected overtime, budget overruns, and frustrations for both the consultant and the client. In this blog post, we're going to delve into how you can prevent, manage, and navigate through the murky waters of scope creep.
And just to mention, on July 12th at noon Eastern, the Community Consultants Collective (CCC) will be holding a meeting to discuss this very topic. So, if you're a community consultant and keen on joining the conversation, we would love to see you there! Please update your calendars with this new link for the July meeting.
Defining Scope Creep: Why It's a Challenge
What exactly is scope creep? Simply put, it's when a client starts to request work outside the pre-established boundaries of the project. For example, you might be hired to help launch a community or develop a strategy for building an audience. However, your client starts asking for actual content creation or written copy — tasks that were not part of the original project agreement.
Scope creep can appear in several forms, such as new deliverables, unplanned activities, or an extended timeframe. While it may seem harmless at first, scope creep can lead to missed deadlines, increased costs, and lowered team morale. If left unchecked, it might even jeopardize the success of the project.
Crafting Scope Creep Resilience: Contract Essentials
Preventing scope creep begins at the very outset of a project. How? By creating a robust contract that clearly outlines what you will be working on, as well as what you won't be. This contract — often referred to as a Statement of Work (SOW) — should ideally include an assumptions and exclusions section, so that there's no ambiguity about the work parameters.
Regularly occurring assumptions might include software costs not being covered in your work or travel not being required. Common exclusions could entail no actual community management or marketing being included in the project. Defining these clearly can help prevent unwanted tasks from creeping into your work.
Contingency Planning: The Scope Creep Safety Net
Even with the best planning, there's always a chance that scope creep will occur. Here's where contingency planning comes in handy. This involves accounting for unplanned work in your Statement of Work, providing you with a buffer to accommodate certain instances of scope creep.
In such cases, ensure that any additional work performed is documented and attributed to your contingency hours. However, this strategy works best when you're closely tracking your hours and have set aside a specific allotment for contingency.
For fixed budget projects, you'll need to be more discerning about whether the additional work is warranted. Unfortunately, fixed fee projects often don't provide the flexibility to take on unplanned work from the client.
Responding to Scope Creep: The Consultant's Guide
So, what should you do when a client asks for something outside your contract's scope? It's a tricky balance to maintain. On one hand, outright refusal could risk losing the client. On the other, agreeing to extra work can set a problematic precedent.
Instead, it's best to be upfront and collaborative. Explain that the requested work wasn't part of the original scope, and suggest documenting the new scope with an estimated cost in the form of a Change Order. This approach will show the client that you're both consultative and professional. Learn more about change orders.
And remember, for tasks you simply don't wish to take on, you can tactfully refer to your contract's exclusions or assumptions, or explain why it would not be cost-effective for them to have you perform that particular work.
Establishing Clear Boundaries for Better Consulting
Navigating scope creep is all about setting clear boundaries. It's not about being inflexible, but rather about ensuring you deliver what was agreed upon, without overextending yourself or diluting your focus. A well-crafted Statement of Work, clear communication, and contingency planning can significantly help in avoiding and managing scope creep.
Remember, your consulting relationships aren't just about saying yes; they're about delivering your best within established parameters. By employing good SOW practices and communicating clearly about scope changes, you can foster harmonious client relationships, maintain your peace of mind, and optimize your billable time.
Are you a community consultant looking for more insights, discussions, and a network of professionals like yourself? Then, we invite you to join the Community Consultants Collective. We look forward to welcoming you!
Todd Nilson, CCC Board of Advisors