Picture yourself presenting your final results from a project to your client. The meeting is swimming along smoothly and you’re basking in the warm glow of another happy client.
Then, your client asks, “Buddyboy, could you slice the data one more way so we can see impact by geographic area?” Setting aside your confusion over a client calling you Buddyboy, do you run the extra analysis or not?
Since the client loved your final presentation, he has another request: “Can you fly out again to present to the entire executive team?” Your team of three would lose a full day for the extra presentation. Do you fly or stay home?
Let’s say you choose to fly: the executive team loves your presentation too. “Buddyboy,” your client gushes, “the executive team wants you to come out one more time to present to the Board.” Is Buddyboy a term of endearment or has the client forgotten your name? Either way, do you fly or stay home?
Let’s look at a different scenario: you’re at a conference assessing four competitors for your client when your cellphone buzzes. It’s your client. “I see competitor #5 is at the conference too. Can you assess them also since you’re there already?” Do you or don’t you add the fifth competitive assessment?
How about this: you’ve launched the final design for your client on a project that already took far more time and effort than you expected. He calls and you immediately mention that you’re not Buddyboy. Puzzled, he continues, “Can you make one tweak to the design? It should take you guys less than five minutes.”
If he’s right that it would take very little time, do you tweak or not? What if it would take two hours? What if he calls again two weeks later with a similar request. Grant it or say no?
Last scenario: your client loves the materials you’ve provided for his senior leaders. He asks whether he can make copies for the next level down. Grant permission or not?
Scope creep is insidious and frustrating. Your consulting firm is paid for your skills, expertise, and the value you provide. Presumably you agreed with your client on a scope of work and a commensurate fee.
Now they want more work but aren’t offering more remuneration. Seems unfair. What do you do?
An Ounce of Prevention vs. a Ton of Grief
Your best defense against scope creep occurs before you submit your proposal.
- Discuss common and obvious scope creep possibilities in advance. If you know that other competitors may attend the conference or that design tweaks can go on forever, raise those scenarios with your prospect before you write the proposal.
- In your proposal, clearly articulate in each alternative what’s included and what’s not
- Make important boundaries explicit. For instance, dissemination of your IP, duration of access to you, the definition of the subject of your work, etc.
- Set high fees. High margins make it easy to say yes to most requests (as long as they’re not asking for work they declined during negotiations.)
“10 and 10” Lines
If project boundaries are fuzzy, consider contributing up to 10% more effort that produces 10x the value. Measuring effort and value can be subjective, but the “10 and 10” lines give you guidance.
Say “No” Gracefully
Even your “No” should sound like “Yes.” “Yes, we can absolutely do that for you. Of course, we’ll need to expand our relationship (or the engagement) a bit.”
Another graceful way to say no is shifting the conundrum to your client. “Since your request is outside the scope of the current engagement, how would you like to structure it so that you get this important, additional value, and we are compensated for generating that extra value?”
Accept Your Decision
If you say Yes, don’t begrudge the client. Do the work well, happily and without restraint. It was your decision to accede to the additional request, so don’t blame it on your client.
Where do you draw the line on scope creep, and how do you deal with your clients’ requests for more, more, more?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.