Now let's face it. The first part of any budget that disappears is your profit. So you really need to make sure that you get a handle on this to make sure that you're making the money that you're planning on making. Hello and welcome to this episode of retain FM. My name is Peter. And today is a bit of a landmark episode because today is the first day i'm recording this podcast both for the podcast And as a youtube video, so if you prefer to consume your content by watching it on youtube Please feel free to head over to our YouTube channel. It's, uh, it's on peteeverett. com forward slash YouTube. It'll send you there or search, um, search YouTube for either Pete Everett or for RetainFM and you should hopefully find the channel quite quickly. Uh, but yeah, this is the first time I'm recording it for YouTube and really wanting to expand how I'm producing content in ways that can help you consume it in the formats that you want to do that. So today we're talking all about scope creep and how you can avoid it in your digital agency. So firstly, what is scope creep? To put it in a nutshell, essentially scope creep is the process where additional work gets added to a project without it affecting things like the budget or the timeline. So basically doing more work. Without being paid for it and cramming that into a project brief. There's lots of different reasons why this can happen. And some of those are internal, believe it or not. Yes. Some agency owners, and you may be guilty of it. I know I have been actually make life harder for themselves. Uh, but also these can be from external factors from a client's point of view. So the most common reasons why this happen are clients move the goalposts. We've all had conversations with clients where you know, they say, Oh, I forgot to mention. Or when they say, Hang on. Why? I thought that was included. Why? Why aren't you going to do that for me? Sometimes. Scope creep can happen when stakeholders get involved in projects as well. So, this is particularly referring to, you know, if you go through a procurement process, a client decides that they are going to commission you to build a website, or do their SEO retainer, or digital marketing, or whatever it might be, and then they Then all of a sudden when it comes around to approving parts of that work, new people start to get involved and they then have their own take on things and actually their take might be slightly different to the take that you had when you costed and quoted the project. So making sure that stakeholders are on the same page as project managers that are on the same page as you as the agency is really key to kicking a project off properly. And then the final The final part is something that's been sort of coined, uh, has coined the phrase gold plating. So gold plating is where the client doesn't necessarily, uh, request anything new. They don't request any changes, but actually it's the agency you decide to go over and above for a client just because you can. Now that's, that's absolutely fine. You know, there's, there's been a longstanding, uh, Sort of mantra in agencies to under promise and over deliver and that's how you delight clients But and that that's absolutely fine But when you do any of that you have to make sure you're not Backing yourself against a wall and creating issues for yourself further down the line All of this basically wraps up into a negative effect on a project. That's either by overrunning the budget Now let's face it, the first part of any budget that disappears is your profit. So, you really need to make sure that you get a handle on this to make sure that you're making the money that you're planning on making. The second is unsatisfied customers. We all know that some clients... Just don't work with us. And we don't work with some clients. That's that's not pointing the finger at either client or agency, but some relationships are a good fit and others aren't. But the truth of it is that every client has the ability at the outset to be an ambassador for you and an ambassador for your brand. If we look at hundreds of thousands of agency stats. If you go and check the admin bar, they have recently run their 2022 agency survey. And if you look at the stats that have come from that, referrals are still the highest by a country mile, the highest way that agencies get new work and get new clients. So you need to protect that relationship as much as you can. That's not to say you have to agree with everything your client says, But every client has the ability to be an ambassador for your brand, and you need to be very careful that you don't throw that. Uh, you don't skew that just by the way you handle some of your client communications. And then finally, the final negative impact is that you often end up with a sub optimal product at the other end. At the end of the day, Our job as agency owners is to deliver the best product we can for our clients Whether that's as I say, whether that's web copy or website or development or whatever it might be It is our job to get it right. They have come to us as the web professional So we need to bring that level of professionalism professionalism when I can say it to each project. It is if, if, if you lose sight of what you're doing, if you allow scope creep to come in, what happens is you start to rush things, things start to get a bit fu uh, fuzzy. The the, there's not the focus or the drive for a particular objective for that project anymore. So, The output has to then be a suboptimal product, either because you've lost willing in it or because the initial direction that was there, the initial objective you were trying to solve has changed. So you need to make sure that all of these things Look, these are the negative impacts it can have. This is why we need to get a handle on it right away. So, really, the rest of this show is going to talk about two things. First is about avoiding scope creep and trying to not let it happen in the first place. And then the second is kind of the flip side of that coin. Acknowledging that scope creep is going to happen some of the time. We can't avoid it all of the time. And when it does happen, then how to deal with it the best that you can. So, avoiding scope creep in the first place. This really starts right at the start of the project. I kind of referred to it earlier. The first thing is to make sure that you are getting the approvals to all briefs and quotes from the All of the stakeholders that are going to be involved in the project throughout its life cycle there's no point in just getting a single manager or a small team to approve a Quote and then additional stakeholders coming in with their own opinions their own kind of ideas of what something's going to do Uh their own thoughts on what value for money is and all of that By the time you get to delivering the project all of that stuff should be agreed. Anyway So you need to make sure that you set clear and Uh clear goals and objectives with each client if you like you can call these boundaries This is the area that we are going to operate in. This is the scope of this project It isn't going to go outside of this. This is the part of the business. This is the part of your website This is the part of whatever it is that we're going to look at we use this all the time with our seo retainers We Look at the business as a whole. But when we're reporting back to a client, you know what? We're looking at organic traffic. They then say, Oh, but our ads have had a, uh, a drop off of X, Y, Z. They may have done. That's not the part of the project we're working on. We're looking purely at organic traffic and search position. So. As I say, use these as boundaries. They, they are there to protect you, but they are also there to focus the client on what this project is trying to achieve. Secondly, you need to build a strong scope of work and project plan. So, and as I say, this needs to be approved by everybody that's going to be involved in making the decisions throughout the... Life cycle of the project. This is ultimately the scope of work. This is the dotting eyes and crossing T's. This is the document that you can come back to in the future when a new request comes in, be that a change request or a design request, a feature request, additional work on a retainer. This is the document you can come back to and say, well, hang on a minute. Our, our, our project plan. Outlines that these are the actions. These are the deliverables So this is additional by all means we can handle that but it will be on a different schedule It will have a cost associated to it and this cost will be x Thirdly, you need to make sure that you're communicating Effectively with your client throughout the entire project lack of communication is Look lack of communication is one of the things as agency owners. We get hammered for the most. I know that i've been there I've had those awkward discussions. The reality is you can't really over communicate with a client and look, we've said it already. They have come to you to develop this. If running an agency often gets, uh, sort of, uh, aligned with projects like building a house or running a car. If you were building a house, you would expect the builder to give you updates on how the project was going, any challenges they were facing, where the drains were going. All of those kind of things. Anything to do with the success of this project, you would expect them to feed back to you. If you send your car to the mechanic, you expect them to ring you to either tell you that everything's fine, or to tell you that, look, we've now diagnosed XYZ problem, and before we proceed... This is what needs to happen and this is going to be the cost. This is another thing that really frustrates me in agency life. It's the only place where people think that they can throw in extras and that they will be included in the original price. That's not true. If, if your car goes to the mechanic and they find a problem that they weren't aware of when you dropped it off, they ring you and tell you how much more it's going to cost. And I've not met anybody that doesn't say, Oh, okay. And pays the bill. It's. It's you know, it if it needs to happen it needs to happen. It's unforeseen work These are the costs we agree and we go again, but that only happens if you are communicating effectively So you need to decide how you do that whether you do that through your project management system Or whether you have a ticketing process in place or whether you have a shared inbox or something like that We use ClickUp for all of our project management. And one of the great things about ClickUp is we can email and communicate with the client directly in the platform. So that means that everything's documented, everybody gets sight of everything, and it's, it's easy to handle. So, look, that's just the way we do it. I'm not saying it's the way you need to do it. But you need to have the process. So if you've never thought about that before, maybe that's worth being the starting point as your actions from this episode in order to, to move on with something constructive. You then need to be able to proactively manage and process any change requests. Like we said, changes are going to happen. You can't avoid that. There will be some. So right up at the top of the project, have you made an allowance for that? Have you got some extra time each month in your retainer? Have you got a contingency budget? Has your quote been, rather than a quote, an estimate of between X and Y in terms of project price? And actually, you know, you can, you know, you've got the authority to bill a little bit more in order to handle some of these things. Um, if you're designing sites, maybe you just accept the fact that you're going to cost in three rounds of amends and that's how you handle it. And actually your, the conversation you have with the client is, look, this is the first round of amends. Absolutely fine. It's the second round of amends just to let you know we've only costed one more round in here and then third round This is your final round of amends. Any amends beyond this point will be chargeable so as you can see, it's using those communications to pre warn the client of Where these cost boundaries are this is entirely your job. It's not up to the client to know how your agency works or where these cost boundaries are or how many revisions or too many revisions that how would they know that their job isn't to run a digital agency? That's yours. So make sure that you have thought about these things right up front and then Finally, and I suppose I've really touched on this already just with what I've just said, but managing the expectations and educating the client about the impact of scope creep. Some people may not know that, um, uh, that this is scope creep. What, whatever it is, they, they may think that this is just the normal way to work with an agency. Oh, it's, it's an evolving project. Oh, I've just thought of this. Oh, I've just thought of that. Ultimately scope creep isn't good for any party that's involved in a project. So if it comes to the point of having to down tools and say, you know what, let's just, let's just stop, stop right now. And we're going to have a meeting and we're going to figure out what the action plan is to go forward so that we all have direction and we can make sure that we're delivering the best thing we can for you. That's always an option. Don't feel like you have to constantly battle these requests that are coming in left, right, and center. And, um, you know, try and find the way yourself. Any web project, be it a one, a standalone project, a one off or a retainer is a collaboration between you and the client. And sometimes those collaborations need to go, Whoa, let's put the brakes on. Let's just figure out where we're going from here and then we can start again. That's not a problem. Um, but as I say, you may need to trigger that conversation. So ultimately they're the ways that the most common ways that you can avoid scope creep. But as we say, it's sometimes it's going to happen and you're just going to have to deal with it. So what are some strategies for dealing with it when it happens? Well, the first thing is identify the cause because the reality is that if you've got a particular reason why scope creep is happening, that might turn into a cycle and that cycle turns into a downward spiral. So if you don't identify where the scope creeps coming from, then. You could be landing yourself in hot water further down the line. So, okay, right? Well, we we weren't aware of that. We need we will include that for you But actually this has this has happened because of X so we need to address X to make sure it doesn't happen again Nine times out of ten this happens because as an agency you haven't been clear enough in Defining the project scope or the project plan. So the deliverables haven't been outlined Comprehensively enough as I said your project plan needs to become a document that you can you can rely on as the agency And go back with any new request and say right well, this isn't documented over here in my agency so every estimate every quote is linked to a project brief and It's I even say this to clients. This estimate is linked to this project brief. If this project brief changes I reserve the right to change the estimate. So that's That's how clear I that's literally the words I say that's how clear I need to make it to clients sometimes Um, so because it's it's up to them to understand to actually give you the information you need, all of the information that you need in order to put that project brief together. We're not expecting them to put the project brief together, but they do need to approve that everything that's in it is everything that they want. Otherwise, we need to revisit it and re look at the estimate. The next thing is to assess the impact of the scope creep on the project's timeline and budget and the resources that you might have to decide whether what they're asking is achievable by you, maybe you're going to need to get a new specialist in if if they're wanting specific JavaScript features and you're not a JavaScript developer and you're going to need to get somebody into to handle that, then actually you might not have the the skill set or the team in place. So there might be knock on effects and it's not right that if this is something you weren't expecting, that you're then shelling out for the expert to come in for a particular area of this work or whatever it might be. So once you've identified the cause, assess what the impact of each individual increment is going to be. Then you've got to communicate all of that with the client Those first two points you can probably do internally But then there needs to be a presentation of this back to the client which can lead to a bit of an awkward discussion But actually if you're you know, don't get angry don't get upset Just be calm, be collected, have all your numbers, have all your data, have run scenarios as to, you know, what are the ways of overcoming a problem? Because just because the client's requesting one thing doesn't mean you can't solve it by doing something else. So. Having all of that preparation done so that when you get into this discussion with the client you can outline why this isn't included in the project or why it wasn't included in the project price to begin with and then any solutions that you could include within the project price versus any solutions that couldn't be, that aren't included and that would cost the client a little bit more. And then basically give the, give the problem back to them and say, look, here's, you've, you've raised one issue. I've come back to you with four solutions. Some of them we can do within the project price, but they might not give you exactly what you want. Or there's a couple of solutions that will give you exactly what you want, but you're going to have to spend a little bit more money. Then the problem's back in their court. It is up to them to decide which route to go forwards. As I've said a number of times, at this point, you can then use that project brief, that project plan as the basis for this discussion. This is what was agreed by the team that agreed it. One question we often, uh, one point we often get with clients at this point is to, somebody then says, Oh well, I wasn't included in that approval, so my opinion is this. That's fine. But it was really up to your team, the client's team, to make sure that that was approved by the right number of people, or the right people, when that document was approved. If they didn't do that, that again is a problem that really sits on your side of the table, not ours. We'll happily work with you for a solution, but it's not my, you know, how am I supposed to know who all of the stakeholders are for this project? That's something that sits firmly on the client's side of the table. Next, throughout everything I've just said, make sure you're keeping documentation. Make sure, this is why we use ClickUp for our project communications, because everything is sort of pre documented, pre dated in there. We can search it, we can find it, we can find out where, um, clarifications were sought, or where they should have been sought, if they weren't. It's really important that you document this. I know of agencies that actually keep client files, you know, I don't know whether they print them out or not, but actually save things into client files or have client documents in their project management system where they can copy and paste emails and stuff like that in and build up a timeline of the entire project. Again, that's entirely up to you how you do it, but if you haven't done it, Right from the outset, then it is something that could come back to bite you in the future. And lastly, you might need to reprioritize your requirements. So, that means actually sitting back and saying, Okay, the initial brief isn't actually going to solve the problem that has been presented now, because this problem's evolved, because of wrong expectations, because of whatever, because of that reason that you identified right at the top. But! In order to deliver for, for you, in order to deliver for the client, these are now the steps that need to happen. Within the existing budget, we can accommodate this subset of those, but maybe there's some that we can't and we need to discuss either, whether that becomes a phase two, or whether that is going to, we can increase the, the budget and the timeline and the resource on this project, ultimately come to an agreement as to how this project is going to work. So I hope you've enjoyed this episode, um, if you are listening to this as a podcast, I'd love it if you go to your podcast player of choice and hit that subscribe button. It really helps me to deliver good quality content, know that that quality content is getting to the people that it Uh, well, that it needs to get to, that I want it to get to. And if you are watching this on YouTube, or if you're not, and you're listening to this, and you think, actually, yeah, YouTube would be a far better way to, to, to listen to Pete, or to, to experience this content, please feel free to head over to YouTube, and give this channel a like, uh, or a subscribe, and tick that little notifications box, so that you get notified as these new episodes come live. I've been Pete Everett, this has been RetainFM, and I will see you in the next show.

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Part 1: Understanding Scope Creep

  • Definition of scope creep
    • Scope creep in digital agency work refers to the phenomenon where a project's scope of work expands beyond the originally agreed-upon goals, tasks, and deliverables, without a corresponding increase in budget, timeline, or other project parameters. Essentially, it occurs when additional work is added to a project without properly managing or communicating the change in scope to the client.
      Scope creep can happen in many different ways in digital agency work, such as when a client requests additional features or changes to the project scope, or when a project team adds extra work or features without consulting the client. The end result of scope creep is that the project becomes more complex and takes longer to complete than originally planned, often resulting in frustration for both the client and the agency.
  • Common causes of scope creep
    • Clients moving the goal posts – "I forgot to mention" or "I thought that would be included!"
    • Stakeholders – people not necessarily involved in the procurement process, but make decisions at project level
    • Gold plating – providing additional work or deliverables that are beyond the scope of the original project agreement but NOT at the request of the client (aka – making life harder for yourself!)
  • Examples of how scope creep can negatively impact a project
    • Overrunning the budget – or "losing your profit"
    • Unsatisfied customers – every customer has the potential to be an advocate for you, don't lose it
    • Sub-optimal final product

Part 2: Avoiding Scope Creep

  • Setting clear goals and objectives with clients – think of these as boundaries
  • Building a strong scope of work and project plan – get this approved by all stakeholders that will be involved in future approvals
  • Communicating effectively with clients throughout the project – its YOUR job to have this process in place either through your project management system, ticketing system of shared inbox
  • Proactively managing change requests – these are bound to happen. May sure you've costed an allowance into the project and have boundaries for whats included and what will be classed as "extra work"
  • Managing client expectations and educating them about the impact of scope creep – ultimately scope creep is not good for any party, so even if this comes to a point of downing tools to have a review with the client and reset the project from that point... It's better to have a clear direction than sink in a project that has lost focus.

Part 3: Dealing with Scope Creep When it Does Occur

    • Identify the Cause: The first step is to identify the cause of the scope creep. Determine what caused it, such as changes in the project requirements or a lack of communication between the client and the Web Designer or Web Developer.
    • Assess the Impact: Assess the impact of the scope creep on the project’s timeline, budget, and resources. Determine if any adjustments can be made to accommodate the additional work or if the project’s scope needs to be revised.
    • Communicate with the Client: Communication is essential when dealing with scope creep. Contact the client immediately to discuss the issue and explain the impact it will have on the web design project’s timeline and budget. Be transparent about what is needed to complete the additional work and provide an estimate of the additional costs involved.
    • Revisit the Web Design Brief: Revisit the web design brief and ensure that the project requirements are clearly defined and prioritised. Make sure that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of the revised project scope, goals, and expectations.
    • Document Changes: Document any changes to the project’s scope, timeline, or budget and get the client’s approval before moving forward. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes down the line.
    • Reprioritise Requirements: Reprioritise the project requirements to reflect any changes resulting from the scope creep. This will help ensure that the most critical tasks are completed first, reducing the risk of further scope creep.


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