When marketing consultants are hired for a project, it’s common for both the consultant and client to come up with new ideas along the way. But beware of “scope creep”: those little changes to the scope of a project that ultimately add up to a big change of direction – and a big impact on the budget.

As a marketing consultant, you want to be sure that as a project’s scope grows, your compensation grows accordingly. At the same time, you want to avoid simply saying “no” and risking strained relations with your client. That’s why it’s so important to clearly establish the project’s initial scope, as well as a formal scope-change control process for revising the plans once work is under way.

Staying a step ahead of scope creep’s cost and deadline implications helps keep your project on-time and within budget, while a formal process for managing project changes ensures that all stakeholders have a fair chance for their ideas to be considered.

Creating a logical change-management methodology also opens the lines of communication among team members and gives them a way to report any problems they see popping up during the course of a project. It also demonstrates that all stakeholders’ contributions are valued, while helping you maintain control over the project and the resources dedicated to it.

Where to Begin?

The first step is to create a written definition of exactly what’s included in your project, and what isn’t. By outlining the boundaries of the project’s scope for all team members, you establish a baseline from which the entire team will work.

Once your project scope document is in place, you need to create a scope-change control process that will allow all project stakeholders to submit any suggestions that fall outside that scope. The process should include a formal methodology for assessing each scope change request, as well as for implementing any approved changes. You’ll need to establish this process before work actually begins – ideally, early in the project analysis and planning phase.

People and Processes

When creating a change-management process, it’s a good idea for marketing consultants to delegate some of the responsibilities by creating a “change-control board” that will evaluate suggested project scope changes. The board chairperson will have the authority to make final decisions regarding proposed changes, and will also be responsible for assigning duties to others, such as evaluating change requests and implementing approved changes.

Then, you’ll need to create a process for team members to submit their suggestions or concerns to the project’s change-control board, which will need a spreadsheet or database to track each change request and its status, time and resource requirements, as well as other notes.

Here’s how it typically works: When a team member submits a change request to the board, the chairperson assigns someone to assess the idea’s pertinence to the project, feasibility, quality impact, time and resource requirements, potential risk, and other factors. Based on this person’s assessment, the board can either seek out more information or decide whether or not to implement the change.

Giving Changes the Green Light

Unless the board-approved project change is very small, you may wish to present it to the client before moving ahead with implementation, especially if it involves additional expense, time or human resources.

Once the client has signed off on the change, the board chairperson can assign the implementation to the right person. As the marketing consultant, it’s your job to revise the project schedule; juggle project commitments with all affected team members; and keep all stakeholders informed of the impact of the change on deadlines, budgets or other project plans.

Although it may seem like a lot of work up-front, creating a formal process to head off scope creep helps you keep your client aware of how a project grows and changes over time, and ensures that you’re paid for any extra work that arises as a result of the scope changes. Plus, a formal change-management process provides a complete impact analysis for any suggested change, helping to identify and reduce risk for marketing consultants.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Cochran is the president of Business Insurance Now, a small business insurance company specializing in liability insurance for marketing consultants. Jim’s years of experience in the small business insurance market allow him to recognize and manage small business risk before it gets out of control.