We need a new way of scoping; the current system is broken. This blog digs into why and how we as an industry need to shift our focus away from the cost of time and on to the value of what’s created.
It’s 2am and the studio lights are on. My pitch team and I have just finished pulling together a scope of work and resource plan for a new client that my agency is falling over itself to win. On the vast boardroom table in front of us is a paper plan, a patchwork of Excel printouts, Sellotaped together and depicting the roles, rates and hours that we’ll submit to this new prospective trophy client.
Across town in another studio, my friend and her agency pitch team are doing the exact same thing.
We both know that tomorrow, it’ll all be shredded. The client will tell us they need this exact piece of work for half the budget. We’ll begin cutting – a lower rate here, a snip of hours there – we’ll trim the pattern tighter and tighter. This client, like many, wants a ball gown but only wants to pay for enough fabric to make a miniskirt.
We didn’t win this time. Another agency managed to cut their pattern even tighter than ours. The managing partner of that firm told me ‘We’ll never make any money on it, but it’s a good brand to have’ – and honestly, that had been our attitude too.
These opportunities that are scoped to the bone with no margin for error or reward for creativity and efficiency aren’t viable. They never were.
We need to shift our focus away from the cost of time and on to the value of what’s created. To follow the thread of my previous analogy, a dressmaker will work to a pattern but it’s the dress they sell, not the needle, the thread and the hours of sewing.
Similarly, when building a scope of work, you should understand the tasks to be completed, by whom and the cost implications to your business.
That’s your pattern and you need to follow it. But the pattern isn’t what you sell. Your client wants to feel beautiful and that’s where your value is.
The reason we work this way is based on an old legacy model of selling hours rather than outcomes – we’ve elaborated on this topic in a previous article. It doesn’t help however that agencies have little to no digital organization of their scoping strategy.
What agencies need in order to make a shift is a clearer view on previous performance so they can learn the lessons and adapt their approach. As it is, gathering retrospective information on project profitability and recoverability is hard to do and so agencies rarely check this before using the same project template for their next scope of work. Comparing the original Excel time estimate with what actually happened is an excruciatingly manual process.
The creative industry needs to integrate scoping into its digital workflow. Scopes of work need to be part of a dynamic, connected information infrastructure that provides the blueprint for agency commercial strategy.
The fact that I recognise this as an urgent need is why I joined The Virtù Group and why I’m so fiercely enthusiastic about its SaaS platform, SCOPE.
The first advantage before all else is that SCOPE connects this key piece of the planning puzzle to your other vital lines of digital business information. But SCOPE is so much more than that. It gives you a standard, a baseline, a starting point for your scopes, which is rooted in truth and always adapting to the reality of the moment.
SCOPE gives you a common language to describe the work you do and a system for categorizing your work. Like a pattern book, you can choose which garment (or in your case, marketing output) you want to make and in which size – from S to XL. SCOPE will offer you the pattern, including hours, roles, rates and materials. You might add a creative flourish here and there, but the pattern remains the same for you to refer to, learn from and adapt each time.
Where SCOPE shifts up a gear is in the on-going management of budgets and resources once work is in the studio and the scope creeps – an inevitable headache that I remember well. SCOPE boasts a track and trade feature, which allows you to make real-time updates while keeping an eye on where you started.
But most importantly, SCOPE gives you a framework to stop selling hours and sell the valuable outputs that your clients really want. It gives you a structure and a discipline to present the value of your work, not the sum of its parts. It gives you the confidence to negotiate from a commercial position that’s based on fact not guesswork.
It means you can cut your cloth with plenty to spare, and your client will focus not on your needlecraft, but on whether they’re ready to go to the ball.