How to Contain Scope Creep in Your Managed Services Relationships

Scope creep: every MSP has dealt with scope creep at one point in their existence. The mature MSPs have already figured out how to limit scope creep and use it to their advantage? How? Let's take a closer look.

What is scope creep?

Scope creep is a term describing the broadening of responsibilities an MSP is performing, and an expansion of services a customer receives, all occurring outside a formal legal document. Let's say you hire me to cut your grass. I charge you $10 and agree to mow your front lawn. You also agree.

Now, several months later, you ask me to mow your backyard as well. I start mowing your backyard and still only charge you $10. That's scope creep. Both parties to teh transaction have implicity agreed to change the original terms of the agreement, and we now have the basis for disagreement. At some point, I'm going to want more money, and you are going to want me to continue mowing both front and back yards for $10.

The following are some easy steps you can implement into your MSP pracgtice to prevent scope creep.

Defined Services Catalog

One of the first things you should do is define your services catalog. Creating and defining your list of managed services offerings will bring many benefits to your company. One of those benefits will include tightening your list of service options. If it isn't on the list, then it can't be something you're responsible for delivering.

Train your Sales/Marketing Teams

Scope creep often comes up as an issue when sales teams make promises the services teams can't deliver. Having an open and ongoing dialog between sales and services teams will help cut down on scope creep.

Service Delivery Policies

Having a defined services catalog is only useful if you adhere to the delivery of those defined services. How do you do that? SImple, you create a service delivery process designed to prevent unauthorized services coming out of your managed services division.

I have seen many instances of scope creep occur when a technician wants to make the customer happy and does something beyond what is written in the agreement. Wanting to please your customers is natural. Doing something for them is not contemplated in the services agreement is dangerous! There are better ways to make customers happy and keep your company out of dangerous situations.

Update your Service Agreements

Which brings us to the last point, service agreements. Creating your services catalog and documenting your service delivery process is great, but useless unless you record that understanding in an agreement signed by you and the customer.

The days of MSPs doing business on a handshake are over. I don't care where you live or what you think your cultural attitudes are, doing business without an agreement to define expectations and responsibilities between the parties is just dumb. Even if you are doing business with a personal friend, why would you risk your friendship by not articulating what each party will do in a signed document?

Whenever one party wants to change the "scope" of the agreement, then the simple answer is to change the agreement. Without a change in the contract, you have scope creep.

We are in a services profession, but that doesn't mean we do anything to make the customer right. Nor does it mean the customer is always right. In my experience, managed services customers are frequently wrong about a lot of things. But, that's where following these best practices will help you deliver excellent customer experience and not get stung by scope creep.

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