Why a Scope of Work?

The most important document in securing a consultant is the scope of work, which provides some guarantee of attaining the expected outcome when evaluating the consultant. The scope of work should include a description of the needs or project, the company's expectations, any unusual challenges for the consultant, a timeline for completion of the project, the provision for a detailed financial estimate for completing the project, and the expected outputs from the effort such as reports, data, results of testing, or other specified outcomes. The methods and action plan should be part of the response to the scope of work and the resources, manpower, and specialized equipment needed to complete the requirements of the scope of work.

The consultant submitting a proposal for the scope of work might benefit from a visit to the site to consider the problem prior to providing a response to the scope of work. Be careful of proposals that appear overly optimistic, overreaching, extremely low bids, unrealistic timelines, conflicts of interest, hard-sell approaches, minimizing or maximizing of potential technical or legal problems, or unsound approaches to solving the problem.

Although a verbal agreement may seem fine, it is recommended that a written agreement that spells out how much the service is going to cost or the maximum number of hours that the company will support be included in the signed contract. The company should provide a scope of work that sets out the steps that will be followed in order to solve the problem. It is appropriate to include, in this written document, the output expectations from the process. A minimum output would be a written report, but the company may not want to pay for this. If not, a verbal report would be the output in the agreement. All expected outputs should be part of this agreement. This may include drawings, step-by-step procedures, and follow-up. The company needs to get all the information required to solve the problem, based upon the consultant's recommendations. The company may have to construct, implement, or redesign equipment, processes, or procedures. Unless some sort of a protective clause is within the agreement, there is no guarantee that the consultant's recommendations will fix the problem. If a guarantee is desired, expect to pay more since the consultant will be responsible for the implementation of his/her recommendations.

If the process of using a consultant is to work, it must be in full cooperation with the company; thus, the consultant can fail if he/she is not an integral part of the company's team. For this reason, it is important to provide all the information needed. Clearly define the problem. Set objectives. Agree on realistic requirements. Get a clear and complete proposal from the consultant. Review the progress from time to time, and stay within the scope of the problem. The consultant can only be as effective as the company allows him/her to be. The company must do its part to assure success. Make sure that a cost- benefit analysis is performed before pursuing a consultant. Agree on cost and fees prior to starting.

The consultant is not a friend. The company has hired him/her based upon an evaluation of him/her that this is the best person to help solve the problem that the company cannot solve, does not have time to solve, or does not have the resources to solve. The consultant should define the problem, analyze it, and make recommendations for a solution. The consultant can be made a part of your team by providing him/her full information and support. This will assure that the greatest value is reaped from the investment in him/her.

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