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4 ways market research firms can manage scope changes with clients

Market research firms, just like ad agencies or business consultants, are not immune to the challenges posed by scope creep. Uncontrolled scope changes can jeopardize the client relationship and impact project outcomes. By taking proactive steps before project initiation, it is possible to mitigate scope changes and maintain a successful partnership.

In the realm of market research, scope creep can manifest in various ways. For instance, a client may request the addition of a single question, but it ends up necessitating an entirely new level of analysis that was not initially estimated. Similarly, clients may express a desire to segment the audience, which may not have been anticipated during the platform setup or analysis estimation phase. These seemingly innocuous requests can lead to significant scope changes if not managed effectively.

To navigate these scenarios deftly with your client, and with a true partner mentality, there are steps you can take before the project even kicks off.

4 ways to mitigate scope changes:

Clear Initial Project Scope:

Clear initial project scope:
Establish a well-defined project scope during the planning phase. Clearly outline the objectives, deliverables, timelines, and limitations. Ensure all stakeholders have a shared understanding of what is included and excluded from the project. This clarity helps manage expectations and avoids unnecessary scope expansions.

Clear Initial Screening Criteria and Reasonable Recruiting ExpectationsClear initial screening criteria and reasonable recruiting expectations: Develop comprehensive screening criteria and clearly communicate them to the client. Ensure realistic expectations are set regarding the targeted audience and sample size. By aligning client expectations with practical capabilities from the start, you can minimize scope changes related to recruitment complexities.

Regular CommunicationRegular communication: Maintain open and consistent communication with the client throughout the project. Frequent updates and progress reports help manage expectations and foster collaboration. Encourage clients to voice any concerns or potential scope changes early on, allowing for timely evaluation and discussion.

Agreed-Upon Change Management ProcessAgreed-upon change management process: Establish a well-defined process for handling scope change requests. This process should outline the steps, responsibilities, and criteria for evaluating and approving scope changes. By having a pre-agreed process in place, you can ensure that all scope changes are thoroughly assessed, avoiding ad hoc and unplanned modifications.

To be sure, small overages on projects are often overlooked for the sake of the larger client relationship - this is why it’s called “scope creep”. Small overages easily snowball into messier scenarios. Before committing to scope changes, it’s important to stop and address four key questions:

  1. Was this an oversight of the original scope and a reasonable expectation of the client?
  2. How difficult or easy is it to implement this change?
  3. Will it significantly impact the project schedule?
  4. Will it substantially alter the analysis plan?

By answering these questions thoughtfully and engaging in a collaborative decision-making process, market research firms can make informed decisions about how scope changes are addressed with the client. When combined with proactive planning, open communication, and a well-defined change management process, these components can help mitigate the challenges of scope creep successfully.

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