Nailing the Scope of a Project in Consulting: 7 Kickass Tips

by | Aug 26, 2022

Just like any other professional service, the scope of a project in consulting is a critical success factor. Hence, before hiring a consulting firm, it’s important to get the scope of a project right.

This will ensure the success of your project’s final outcome. When the scoping is done correctly, you can avoid delays and unexpected costs down the road.

But what does ‘getting the scope right’ even mean? To start with, it requires a clear understanding of each phase in the life-cycle of your project – from beginning to end – so that all stakeholders involved are on the same page about expectations.

In this post, we will guide you through everything you need to know about accurately defining the scope of a project in consulting RFPs.

The most important factor probably for the success of your consulting project, is understanding the “why” behind it. What is the purpose of launching your new project, and what are your main expectations of it?

When crafting an effective RFP and engaging in talks with a few prospective consulting providers, you will gradually sharpen your view and clarify all aspects of the project.

Based on many years of experience, we’ve made a list of the most effective techniques you can use to write the scope of a project for consulting flawlessly.

#1. Always Start With a Realistic View

When embarking on a consulting project, it’s easy to get caught up in the grand vision of what it could become. But, as you begin to explain your needs and objectives, it’s not uncommon to realize that the scope is too large.

This realization can be discouraging, but it’s actually an opportunity to fine-tune the project plan. By breaking down the project into smaller, more manageable pieces, you can ensure that each component is well-defined and achievable.

This approach also allows for a more strategic allocation of resources to deliver a high-quality end product that meets your objectives. Embracing a more realistic scope requires a smart approach, but it will ultimately lead to a more successful outcome.

#2. Provide the Basics and Be Precise

Start with giving the basics. What is the state of your industry? What are the main challenges you are facing? What have you done so far? What would you like the consultant to help you with?

Here is a good example to help you grasp the points:

“Slow Economic Growth in Europe, in particular, compared to other markets, has limited the growth of the Insurance Industry.

After a slight increase in 2017, growth went down again in 2018. In 2016, new European regulations, namely Solvency 2, started to get implemented. As a result, the pressure on risk and compliance functions increased significantly.

European politics could also impact the regulatory stance in major markets. As a result, Risk is becoming more than ever a core function in the organization. Insurers need to adjust business processes and strategies to this new environment.

In 2017, Insurance Co created a Risk and Compliance team at the group level to supervise the implementation of Solvency 2 in the different business units.

Insurance Co would like now to review the various options for organizing its risk activities at the corporate and business unit level and identify the most efficient set-up while taking into account the position of the regulators on this critical matter.”

At first sight, it sounds like a simple organization design project. However, if you look closer, some key elements seem to be missing. The context doesn’t give any information about the results of the existing Risk and Compliance team.

Why does the corporate team want to re-organize the risk function only two years after the creation of the team? There is no mention of the political dimension of the corporate relationship with business units, which is often a key element in an organizational design project.

It might also be interesting to provide some benchmarks on existing models and anticipate the regulator’s position.

#3. Give a Clear Idea of Where You Are in The Process

Your consultant needs to know all these elements that will help them understand exactly where you are on the path to success and design a proposal customized to your needs.

Here is an example of what it could look like:

“You can also define the high-level questions you want to answer with the project, such as:

  • What is the existing performance of the industrial set-up? How do we compare it with competitors?
  • What are the high and low performers by function?
  • What are the different opportunities to harmonize the organizational structure?
  • What are the best options to improve the organization’s efficiency based on an internal benchmark?
  • For each option, what would be the impact/risks to consider? What are the associated costs and potential benefits?

A first high-level assessment shows a potential of 7% of savings that will contribute to the overall synergy objective of the merger.”

Tips to nail the scope of a project

#4. Provide a Comprehensive and Accurate Description of Your Requirements

Setting the context is crucial for any successful project, but it’s just the first step. Once you have provided the context, it’s time to dive into the meat of your requirements.

Your RFP should be carefully crafted to include all the important questions that consulting firms would need to ask in order to provide a solution tailored specifically to your needs.

This is where your knowledge and expertise come into play, as you’ll need to identify not only what you want but also what you need. Don’t be afraid to consult with colleagues or experts to ensure that your requirements are comprehensive and accurate. After all, the success of your project depends on it.

#5. Focus on the Expected Value

There are many ways consultants can generate value on a project, but very few of them can guess what you expect if you don’t state it plainly. The best way to start is to reformulate your problem statement at the start of this section.

Remind the consulting firms included in the RFP process what are the objectives and the expected outcomes. If you have specific expectations regarding benefits, now is probably a good time to express them.

The high-level objective can be clearly defined in a few lines. However, many roads, if not all of them are leading to Rome.

In order to get great proposals that answer your specific needs, you might need to add some precisions in the scope of a project in the RFP that will help the consultants to “size” the workload and the project team, such as the level of confidentiality and also who should be involved on your end as well as your timeline for the project.

#6. Aim for Clarity with “What” & Not “How” To Do It

There is a fine balance when describing the expected deliverables. Some companies tend to provide the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ at the same time.

However, as soon as you start describing how the consulting firm should produce the deliverables, you lose the creativity and the experience an external provider can bring in.

You automatically reduce the consulting firm to an externalized workforce. This situation can work if you know very well the job to be done, but it does not constitute a best practice.

Our experience shows that, even if you might be tempted to specify the methodology, it is important to leave room for the consultants to propose how they would approach the issue.

This allows you to adjust later on and will most often provide you with a fresh perspective.

#7. What Else to Add to the Scope of a Project?

Each project is different, and often clients can omit details that pertain to the project, their circumstances, or the niche market. Do not hesitate to add additional information that could be implicit for you, but consultants who are less familiar with your company cannot anticipate it.

Before you finalize the scope of a project in consulting, some of the questions you need to ask yourself are as follows:

  • Do you expect the consultant to do everything on his own, or do you anticipate a joint team?
  • Will the work be performed on-site?
  • Is there a preferred location? Specific language requirements, maybe?
  • Do you have specific requests regarding knowledge transfer at the completion of the project?
  • Are there additional “side questions” that should be addressed?

And now the final key point… Describe how you intend to proceed with the selection process. This way, you can guarantee a fair process and ensure that consulting companies will decide to participate.

Closing Thoughts

When it comes to the scope of a project in consulting, you must get it right. It’s not only the best way to communicate your problem at hand, but it also ensures that all deadlines, costs, and expectations of everyone involved are known from the start.

If a consultant comes in with an accurate scope set in place, there’s less room for mistakes or confusion as to what should be done and when.

Even if mistakes do happen—an unexpected bug gets introduced—it’s easier to trace what went wrong since everyone already knows which features were meant to be solved during that phase prior.

After all, having proper visibility over what you plan on doing allows for optimal results in the end! Consulting might never be easy, but if the scope of a project is well-crafter, it will make everything smoothsailing for everyone involved.

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Nailing the Scope of a Project in Consulting: 7 Kickass Tips

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