Stop scope creep with these three magic words
It’s easy for a creative project to slowly but surely expand and eventually become out-of-scope of the original plan. It happens all the time, and it can be really difficult to communicate exactly what happened.
From our experience, it always comes back to these three aspects of a video marketing project. Understanding these three concepts and how they interact will help you better prepare and react when your project changes.
- Quality - How big is the vision for the project?
- Time - How long do you have to make it happen?
- Budget - How much does it cost to bring this idea to life?
Clients and agencies need to recognize the relationship between these three points and decide on tradeoffs when managing them.
It’s a simple equation: to increase the quality, your budget (and often your timeline) will be affected and vice versa. Each element affects the other and you have to balance all three.
By using this simple vocabulary for talking about project scope, it can help you communicate better and improve your client relationships even when things change.
Let’s take a closer look at these three levers and how you can control them.
If you’re a service company you either bill based on time and material or value. So when something takes longer than expected, you either eat it or bill it. More time typically improves quality but may alter the budget. Similarly, less time may lead to an increased budget if there is a rush order and more resources need to be pulled in to maintain a desired quality.
You want something faster? That may be a rush order, which costs more money.
You need it cheaper? We’ll need to work it into our schedule, which will take more time.
You missed your review deadline? We need to shuffle our clients timelines.
Remember, this should be a two-way street. As a creative agency, if you miss a deadline and it's your fault, you should push to improve the quality. You may even consider providing a small discount.
Achieving quality is a bit more subjective. Some people can create in 5 minutes what takes others 5 hours. Time isn’t necessarily something you can compare between two people. However, at an individual level, most people do a better job if given 5 hours rather than 5 minutes. The point? Better quality requires time - which is a mix of wisdom, expertise and billable hours.
You want it to look better? We need more time for pre-production, better equipment, a larger crew, a more experienced team and a more designed set.
You want better acting? We need to pay for better actors.
Sometimes better quality isn’t needed and the client is absolutely right in asking for a cheaper solution. You wouldn’t use a RED or ARRI with a 10-person crew for a simple training video. As creatives, it’s easy to get overly excited and committed to our own ideas and run toward them. However, if these ideas are overkill, they should be killed or you’re going to be left out-of-scope with a client who’s justified in their unwillingness to pay extra.
This is often the most contentious of the three points. If your client is asking for more, but you’re not charging more, it’s time to make this a priority. If you’re a client who feels like your bill is higher than it should be, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. Letting either of these situations linger is a recipe for disaster.
**You need it to be cheaper? We’ll need to decrease the quality and increase the time (to work around our schedule).
**You don’t have any additional budget? Let’s ditch the five seasons and scrap the hair and makeup.
Managing budgets can be tricky. While you shouldn’t limit your creativity, be sure you’re also thinking creatively to keep ideas within your scope. Develop a line item budget, even if it’s just for internal purposes, so you can see where you’re under, where you’re over and balance everything out. When you see a red flag, bring it up before it gets out of hand.
Every time you over-invest in a project, you create unrealistic expectations for your client, which sets a precedent. More often than not, your clients are willing to pay a proper price if you’re consistent and can explain your billing. Of course, if you’re overcharging and mismanaging the budget, be prepared for righteous backfire.
Nobody likes surprises. But these conversations shouldn’t be that scary because it’s completely logical. At the start of any new client relationship, talk to them about the correlation between time, quality and budget. Then, when a serious conversation around scope is needed, they’re already primed. Nobody’s surprised or feels like they’ve received the short end of the stick.
Here are a few sample emails to help you out. Of course, a phone call might be a better option than an email. Either way, lead with a proactive strategy so these conversations don’t feel reactive.
We took a look at your request and think it’s a great idea. However, to match the quality you want, we’ll need to increase the budget. We should be able to deliver on time by adding a few additional members to the project team. I’m happy to hop on a call to discuss in detail. If everything is approved, we’ll get things moving with a revised SOW.
Sorry to hear that you need to revise the scripts. While we’ve been moving forward after they were initially approved, there are a few approaches we can take. Taking this step backward normally leads to an increased budget. Based on where we are at in the process, it would likely add an additional 25% to the budget. I know that you had a very tight budget on this project. If there isn’t much wiggle room, let’s discuss cutting this section of the script, or where else we can offset these costs. Let’s hop on a call to stay within our scope.
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