As a client looking to have a marketing firm work on any kind of project – website build, digital marketing campaign, video shoot, custom animation, or otherwise – you should always be well aware of your scope. 

There are many ways to approach the scope of work from the agency perspective, but not all of them have transparency and the client’s best interests in mind.  Your scope of work should not be a “set it and forget it” mentality.  Your chosen partner – critical word in the context of this post – should be very clear about not only what the scope of work is, but also how it can shift and how that will be addressed.  Let’s just get this fact out right now – almost every single scope of work shifts in some way during the course of a project.   It is very natural for this to happen, but is the shift a creep, an evolution, or a flat out change?

Let me put it in terms that hit a little closer to home. Do you know anyone who has either renovated a room in their home, or built a new home, who has not changed their mind about something during the process?  Every time my wife and I have work done on our home we change our mind on things – some very small and some very big.  We expect to.  How could we possibly think of everything up front?  Seeing the changes as they take shape allows us to envision new possibilities, and each of those has an impact on the timeline and the budget.  (Ah, timeline and budget, critical components of your marketing project as well.)  But here is where creep, evolution, and change begin to define themselves. 

Creep 

So, my wife and I are seeing the renovations unfold when Pinterest inspiration strikes and we decide a darker colored accent wall in the room is just the thing to tie it all together, thus adding a new color of paint.  Seems so simple, right?  Paint is paint.  But there is a cost to more paint and there is a labor cost to changing colors after painting three of the four walls.  Most contractors would probably say, “No big deal.” and knock it out.  But then we decide that we want a third color in the room.  In our minds, “Hey, what’s one more color when you already said two was okay.”  If you see where I am headed, you know that this becomes a slippery slope for everyone – it adds tiny bits of time, tiny bits of cost for the contractor, and tiny bits of expense for the client.

Evolution

Same example, but we decide that we want to add some crown molding to the room and an additional ceiling light fixture.  This is clearly the same project – a room renovation – but the work has evolved to include more within the project.  Every contractor I know will clearly tell you that this will take “x” number of additional hours or days, cost you “x” amount of additional expense, and clearly add to their costs.  Usually, in this scenario, the work can be done while the original project is underway – that makes the most sense because the impact is limited. 

Change

Same example, but we decide that we want to cut a new doorway into the adjacent room and connect the flooring in order to have a unified look.  Unless your contractor is an extremely generous saint-like individual, red flags and alarm bells should be going off all around.  While all of this work is perfectly logical and can be done, it will have a significant impact on timeline and budget.  Your contractor likely has other jobs lined up behind yours and, like you, those clients have expectations.  It is the contractor’s job to help you understand that some changes can be considered as a second, separate job (or scope of work).  They may recommend staying focused on your current timeline and budget, get job #1 done, and then set a new timeline and budget for the next phase.  While you may want it all done now, the cost to do so will likely be more than the cost to do it later.  Contractors who have to shift other jobs can, at times, charge additional fees to you because of the impact on other clients. 

The common thread in all three scenarios is the need for your contractor to be clear and concise about what every little shift means.  As a client, you should have very clear expectations about what conversations will be occurring and what they will mean to your project.  While you should expect the contractor to be proactive in this regard, do not assume that a lack of communication means that everything you are asking to add to the project can be done without impact to the timeline or the budget.  Everything impacts those two things in some way.  The worst thing is to have that conversation too late when the work is already done, or your (no longer realistic) deadline is days away. 

Nothing changes when the job is in pixels and lines of code. Small tweaks add small expenses, minor additions add expense and often time, and large changes to a project can have major impacts on budget and timeline. Make sure your chosen project partner is talking about these things up front before you get started on anything.  Make sure you know how these things are approached and what you are expected to do when they arise.  Having a project creep, evolve or change is perfectly acceptable.  Not knowing what it means to you and to your partner is not.

Kurt Cannon

About Kurt Cannon

Kurt Cannon leverages his more than 15 years of senior leadership experience to oversee the client experience at Liquid. As VP of Client Engagement, he is responsible for the creation of new, meaningful services in the market, the strategic application of those services for our clients, and exceeding client expectations with solid, measurable results. When he’s off the clock, Kurt is either spending time with his wife and three kids, riding his bike in support of The LIVESTRONG Foundation, or active as a member of the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley.

Published Sep 08, 2016