Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Determining scope, part of Budgeting Video Projects (2012).
So, now that you understand the concept of Scope, let's talk about the process of clearly defining it for the client. Scope is something that needs to be written down and I want to walk you through a logical workflow and then share a standard document format that you should be using. Let's first look at the workflow. What happens in any project is you have a need to start, and once a project is underway you're going to set objectives. These objectives might be set by you or the client, but this is defining the goal.
The goal is often the end result that needs to be achieved and you'll map a series of deliverables towards that goal that you believe will create the proper outcome. Next, there's a need to gather information about the project and the customer. This is where things like the budget constraints kick in and the schedule that they need, as well as further clarification about those items--how many copies, what cities need to have footage shot in, is there any travel involved.
You then continue to start to execute the project and along the way you will track your progress versus the targets. So, what happens here is you'll have a plan and then reality will kick in. The first thing you have to ask yourself is are you guys happy with what's happening? Are you delivering good work and is in line with the client's expectations? If you're not, you need to take remedial action. If the problem lies with the client, chances are you're going to need to address the issue with them and broach the topic of a change in cost.
However, if the problem lies internally due to mistakes that you're making or bad choices with vendors, you may end up eating costs, but this is where it becomes important that you're tracking what's happening and where you're burning cash. Going forward, if everything is satisfactory and you're continuing to do well, you then need to track as you complete milestones. If the project is hitting those milestones, then you can go ahead and issue a bill. We'll talk more about billing strategies later but the key to think about here is you want to tie certain progress to certain bill amounts so that you're seeing money throughout the project for satisfactory work.
If the project is completed, then you're done. If it's not, you keep the cycle going as you continue to make deliverables, tracking changes that the client asks for, and taking corrective action along the way to make sure that you're maintaining the cost, the schedule, and the scope of work while maintaining a high quality. This is really a simple document, but it does clearly define what's happening. Now that you understand the project workflow, you need to think about putting it in writing for the client.
For virtually every project I've done for the last 10 years I have created scoping document, and if I haven't done it personally a member of my staff has. This document is a simple, clearly written document that specifies what it is we're doing for the client and it also identifies some major points of information that are typically where conflict arises. Here's what's in a Scoping Document. On the right, you're seeing a copy of the outline and this outline is covered in depth on my blog as well as in the downloadable Exercise Files.
The first thing is the name of the project. You need to have a name for the project that lines up with what the client wants to call it. This may be very specific. Try to avoid acronyms and make sure there's adequate level of detail. Having the accurate name for the project improves the chances of your invoices getting paid when they come into the company. You want to make sure that you're all talking about the same thing. Next, you provide an Executive Summary. The Executive Summary is just that, a summary for an executive.
Chances are other people are going to need to find out about the project. So, people who are not as closely tied to it like your direct client. It might be an executive who's deciding which projects get cut and which ones continue. It might be deciding who's going to get funding and who's going to have it pulled. The Executive Summary clearly states why this project was being executed and what's trying to get accomplished. It's normally a less than one page document that just lets anybody who reads it get the high-level overview of the project.
The next section is Background. This is why the project was being executed and any relevant information that the client has given you. If you're dealing with the request for a proposal or you've had a meeting with the client before delivering the proposal to them, this allows you to put in important background information that ensures the customer you understand why the project is being executed and any important information that you need to make sure everyone on the team is aware of. Next becomes the Scope.
And at a high-level you're talking about lots of things. Not all of these will go into every Scoping Document, but you're going to want to talk about the objectives and the deliverables. Who's going to be involved? Does the customer need to do anything in relation to the project? Are they providing somebody to be on-set during shooting or are they offering up subject matter experts to appear on camera without getting paid? You need to talk about any assumptions you're making when building out the budget.
Perhaps you're assuming that you'll be able to shoot in the clients' offices at no cost or that the customer will review anything you post within 24 hours and respond back to you during the business week. You need to clearly spell out your assumptions that will affect if you can deliver the project on time and on budget. Other things include any constraints as well as what are the criteria that the customer will use to gauge if the project is complete and if it was a success.
Some people choose to talk about any risks to the project as well as point out the benefits, but most importantly I find is clearly spelling out the budget and the schedule. Not the every single item that has to be done checklist but the key major milestones that include things like when is the client going to see the rough cut, when are they going to see the first script, when do you need feedback on that script. Lots of logical things like that that identify major progress points in the life of a project.
Once you've clearly spelled out the scope, you may want to identify some of the key people involved. Who's involved on the project? Who's managing it? Who's going to be on the team? This will make sure that everybody knows who to get in contact with. And lastly, a signature line. Putting something in writing is pretty meaningless if the client doesn't sign it and agree to it. Having a clear Scope document means that you have identified what the project's about, what are the risks involved in the project, what are you going to accomplish and why is this project being undertaken, how much should it cost and what are the things due.
Putting this in writing cuts down on all sorts of arguments and dramatically improves the likelihood of success. It also forces the client to closely look at it and will improve your overall relationship with the end-customer. What I like to say is knowledge is happiness. By clearly defining the work that's going to be performed, people understand and they know what to expect and when to get it. They also know what is going to be considered reasonable and you've laid out when the deadlines are.
You've clearly identified who's on the team, who's the leader, who's going to be points of contact for different aspects of the project. The Scoping Document gives a much better picture to the end-customer of what it is you're doing. Sure, a spreadsheet with some fields filled in, a couple of rates, and some hourly numbers are great, but if you don't understand the schedule and the scope that led to the generation of that budget, all you have is a number written on a piece of paper and that doesn't really give you any legs to stand on.
Remember, three legs to make a stable table, three legs for that Triple Constraint: the Schedule, the Budget, and the Scope. All of these come together and you have to identify them for the customer and then of course deliver on time with great work and make sure that it actually matches what you promised.
- Evaluating outsourcing and partnering options
- Setting rates for services
- Incorporating material costs
- Determining the scope of the project
- Estimating production time for the budget
- Creating a quote or proposal
- Setting payment terms
- Creating an invoice with Word or Pages
- Performing billing and collections