6 Reasons Why Poor Project Scoping Is Destroying Your Agency

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting




You've packed your bags, turned off the coffee pot, and are ready to go. You know where your final destination is, but you've decided to be spontaneous. You'll get there; you just don't know how. 

Before leaving, you set a budget and a timeframe. 

Now consider your options. You could take the bus, the train, rent a car, walk, get on a plane ... pick your form of travel. 

You start on your journey, and then things start to unravel. 

This is similar to how many client projects begin. You know what the end result should be, but the best route isn't always clear. Clients are unresponsive. A designer misses a deadline. There are some things you just can't predict or control. 

That's why it is important to understand how to define a project's parameters and objectives and to have procedures in place for handling scope creep

We asked a few agency execs what impact poor projecting scoping has on an agency. Find out why project management skills are important to your firm:

Destruction of Relationship

When a project is scoped poorly, we tend to concern ourselves with how much money the agency will lose, whether we can deliver, and how pissed the client is going to be. All of these concerns are completely valid, but the one regarding the client is probably what you need to be most worried about. Do everything possible to get the project back on track, but don’t overlook how your “relationship equity” has been impacted and what can be done to repair it.

Relationship equity ultimately embodies the trust and confidence your client has in you to understand and deliver on what they are trying achieve. When a project is scoped poorly, that trust is put into question.

Your relationship equity is the currency that funds the quality of every interaction you have with your client, from reviewing work to new business – don’t underestimate it.

-Keith Pine | Organic

Damage to Creative

Poor project scoping robs the creative process of one of its most precious resources: time. Time to concept, time for ideas to mature, time to do due diligence on execution (especially in digital). This leads agencies to pitch half-baked or lousy ideas, especially when we send the ideas we have when the clock runs out, rather than the idea we’re aspiring to but haven’t found yet. Ironically, this can lead to overages: half-baked ideas rarely get sold in and, if they do, the agency winds up having to “make it work,” which can prove costly. Agency operations are all inextricably intertwined and it’s the creative that can suffer. Advertising is a black and white business. Starve the work of talent and it will die. Nourish it the right amount and it will be amazing. Unfortunately, most of the industry tries to make it gray.

- Ken Kraemer | Deep Focus

Failure of the Agency

If you do not scope out a project at the start you are in for a world of hurt. Some of the spears and swords that will be slicing and dicing you:

Poor employee performance: If the employee does not know what to do it is hard to do anything. Imagine playing football with no line, goals, or refs … that’s no good.

Poor client accountability: If the scope is not properly set then your client has no clue what they will need to do to make themselves successful through the project. They will be under the belief that your team will be doing everything.

Company or agency profits no longer exist: If you have no scope then you have no clue what is out of scope. this means that once the client hires you, you simply work for them for the rest of your life because they keep adding new work that was never talked about.

- George Thomas | The Sales Lion

Breakdown of Trust

The obvious outcome of poor scoping is longer timelines, uncomfortable conversations and ultimately higher costs and inefficiencies for one and normally both parties. Ultimately though, the collateral damage is the erosion of confidence and the breakdown of trust between the parties. It’s a vicious cycle. Internally, whilst everybody puts a brave face of it, agency teams look to apportion blame, especially in the direction of project management; when the reality is probably all parties share some level of responsibility. My advice is be open at the start of the process. In all likelihood, everyone probably has some uncertainty but if all teams hold hands and are transparent, mistakes can be avoided or realigned quickly. It pays off in the long run.

- Richard Tan | Figliulo&Partners

Drawn Out Project Timelines

The largest impact we have seen as an agency are delays which lead to prolonged project timelines. The push back in original timelines has caused frustration from the client on a lack of project completion and increased cost for us as an agency. We have since remedied this issue by building in additional time into our project scope for incidentals which may be beyond our control as an agency.

- Seth Fendley | ClearPivot

Loss of Profit

The most obvious impact is loss of profit. This could be due to either losing a customer because you did not meet their expectations or spending more time and money than estimated in order to save the account. Secondary consequences include rework, schedule slips, reduced capacity for new business, and team burn out.

- William McKee | Knowmad


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