Reign in ‘Scope Creep’

Posted on: February 19th, 2014 by Laura Lloyd-Henry No Comments

 

How do you avoid projects that are beset by uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in their scopes-of-work? Answer: maintain scope control in five ways.

Every project, regardless of the medium or client, has the potential to be afflicted by ‘scope creep.’ But being aware of it before a project starts and having processes in place to manage it can be the difference between a project finishing on time and being profitable for your firm or dragging on forever and blowing the budget to smithereens.

Scope Creep Defined

First, what exactly is ‘scope creep’ and how does it start? Like any ailment, it can start small but quickly grow out of control if not addressed. Simple change requests from clients may seem harmless at the beginning but they have the potential to act as an opening to larger, more costly revisions as the project progresses.  Scope creep happens when a project’s scope-of-work is not properly defined, documented or controlled. When scope creep does happen, it is generally considered harmful. Not only does it adversely affect the project schedule and budget, it also affects the quality and success of the deliverables.

Scope creep can be the result of the following situations:

These situations can be remedied through five ways.

1.  WRITE IT DOWN – Document the Requirements

When a scope-of work is in writing it makes it much easier to adhere to and gives everyone involved a point of reference as the project progresses.

2.  Create a Clear Project Schedule

Like a written scope-of-work, a corresponding schedule clearly delineates deadlines for each step in the project – concepts, client edits, revisions, delivery of final files – it has the affect of discouraging date changes.

3.  Set up Change Control Processes

If changes to the scope are requested, there should be a clear process by which they are documented and approved both internally and externally.

4.  Have the Client Approve the Project Scope

Before the project can start, the client must give approval, in writing, of the project scope. This way if there is a change to it, and the change is important enough, the client can approve it, along with the appropriate budget and schedule changes.

5.  Talk to the Project Team

Make sure everyone involved in the project has reviewed the project scope and approved it. Getting their input in the beginning allows each team member to understand what is expected, when it is due, and for how much eliminating the possibility of unauthorized scope changes.

By implementing these five steps, you can gain control over scope creep and realize more profitable projects and satisfied clients.

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Virtual Assistant or Project Manager – Which is right for you?

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by Laura Lloyd-Henry No Comments

 

If you are one of the growing number of freelance or “solopreneur” graphic designers you know how much time and effort are involved in running a creative business. Every day you are responsible for completing a variety of tasks related to business development, networking, design, project management, and accounting.  Perhaps you find yourself mired in reading emails, returning phone calls, or putting out fires instead of focusing on creative work and meeting with potential clients. If so, one solution is to consider outsourcing work to either a project manager or virtual assistant to free up a few hours each day. To help you determine the solution, I have outlined below the differences between the positions and the types of tasks each is best suited to handle.

Project Manager
The role of the project manager is to focus on the day-to-day tasks of running a project to ensure it stays on schedule and within budget. One of the main responsibilities of a PM is to facilitate communications among your design staff, consultants, and clients.

This person should be able to communicate with your clients in a professional manner, have the ability to build a project schedule, adhere to deadlines, be organized, have a dedicated work ethic, and be self-motivated. S/he should also have a good understanding of the creative process, having been a designer previously or involved in the marketing/communications profession.

Project Communications – returns phone calls, responds to e-mails/texts, and obtains the information and answers needed to complete each project successfully. This person becomes your client’s contact during the project production phase so you can focus on business and creative development.
Project Database Management
– daily reviews and updates your project database so it reflects your project’s most current status to keep your staff and clients informed.
Scheduling, Budgeting, and Resource Management – can develop project scopes-of-work and create project schedules and budgets as well as review your staff workloads and/or identify the need for an outside contractor to meet proposed schedules.
Production Tasks – completes production-related activities such as checking revised client proofs, reviewing printer proofs, or performing website testing and feedback.
Quality Control – reviews your projects during production to facilitate clear communication of details between your clients and design staff to ensure production efficiency and reduce unnecessary rounds of revisions.
Risk Assessment – identifies, analyzes, and plans ahead for issues that may hinder your project’s being completed on time and within budget or meeting your client’s expectations so production goes as smoothly as possible.

Virtual Assistant*
The role of the virtual assistant is to focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary and are crucial to the running of your business in general. S/he may have minimal involvement, if any, with actual projects and clients.

A virtual assistant should have good skills in typing, data base entry, and customer service. S/he should be attentive to details and have proficiency in Microsoft Office® products such as Outlook, Word, and Excel.

Bookkeeping – keeps tabs on office expenses and follows up on overdue invoices or unpaid bills.
Database Entries – keeps databases current with potential client business card information and updating information for current contacts.
Data Presentations – summarizes raw data and information into a format that can be easily shared in preparation for a meeting.
Managing Email – filters emails to determine those that need your attention and answers those for you that do not.
Social Tasks – handles tasks such as thank you notes and holiday cards.
Scheduling – manages your daily calendar and schedules appointments with clients.
Business Development – prioritizes potential business contacts and opportunities.

These are examples of some of the primary tasks of each position. To determine which professional would be better for your firm, start by considering the tasks you want to outsource and are comfortable delegating. Then imagine how your day will be when you can focus on the work you want to be doing instead of administrative work.

If you are interested in project management services, take advantage of my free 30 minute phone session to ask me questions about how to better manage one of your projects or projects in general.

*Excerpted from 10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant by Alina Dizik, Entrepreneur.com (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225318)

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Client Daycare

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by Laura Lloyd-Henry No Comments

 

Tuesday morning, 8:30 am – are you in your office working? How about Thursday afternoon, say around 3:00pm? Or what about a late afternoon…on a Friday… in the summer?  If you answered “no” to any of these questions then you are probably one of the many freelance/solopreneur designers NOT working standard business hours. For many self-employed creatives, eschewing the usual Monday through Friday, nine-to-five work schedule is a perk, or in many cases, a necessity. While many are simply following their inner muses working when inspiration strikes them, others are actively trying to blend their working hours with their personal schedules to accommodate school hours, nap times, or after-school activities.

Being a self-employed designer with this perk may sound like a great situation - until you consider the needs and working hours of your clients who most likely embrace, and adhere to, standard business work weeks and hours. How then do you manage your clients and projects when you are not in the office at the same time they are? The answer: client daycare.

Similar to a provider who cares for your child during the day, client daycare can be provided by a project manager during standard office hours. A project manager can answer your client’s phone calls and e-mails, respond to their requests, and gather the information you need to complete their project at times convenient for them. This allows your firm to maintain a professional appearance and meet your client’s needs while freeing you to work the hours best suited to your lifestyle.

If you have experienced frustration in communicating with your clients, delays in project schedules, or are challenged by client management due to an unconventional work schedule, consider outsourcing routine project tasks to a manager who can alleviate your stress and ensure your clients are cared for during standard business hours.

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