The important differences between scope of work and schedule of work

Many years ago, we posted “The world’s worst advertising agency scope of work defined by a marketer” where we highlighted the lack of specificity in the scope of work provided. However, this prompted a reader to question my opinion on this approach to providing a scope of work. The procurement person concerned had read the original post and told us we had confused the “Scope of Work” with the “Schedule of Work”.

This was our first time hearing the phrase “Schedule of Work”. Previously we have only ever used “Scope of Work”. We had previously provided a reasonably comprehensive approach to “Defining the scope of advertising agency services to determine agency compensation” here.

So exactly what is the difference between a “Scope of Work” and a “Schedule of Work”, and why does it matter? Does it even matter?

Well, let’s look at the definitions from of the two words: scope and schedule.

scope (noun)

  1. extent or range of view, outlook, application, operation, effectiveness, etc.: an investigation of wide scope.
    2. space for movement or activity; opportunity for operation: to give one’s fancy full scope.
    3. extent in space; a tract or area.
    4. length: a scope of cable.
    5. aim or purpose.

sched·ule (noun)

  1. a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective, especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion: The schedule allows three weeks for this stage.
    2. a series of things to be done or of events to occur at or during a particular time or period: He always has a full schedule.
    3. a timetable.
    4. a written or printed statement of details, often in classified or tabular form, especially one forming an appendix or explanatory addition to another document.

Simply put, the scope is the WHAT in breadth and depth. The schedule provides additional dimensions, including WHEN WHO and HOW MUCH.

So, what are the implications for marketers, procurement and agencies?

Using a Scope Of Work

For marketers, the scope of work can be the scope of the tasks and services they require of the agency; e.g., the agency is to provide strategic thinking to develop campaign ideas, and creative concepts, to follow these through to manage and deliver the required production, etc. It defines the scope of the agencies’ responsibilities.

For procurement, this will define the roles and responsibilities of the supplier, which is essential for the contract. Still, it lacks specificity to assess either the resources required to deliver the scope of work or the cost value against the delivery of outputs.

For the agency, if they have entered into an ‘all you can eat’ retainer (with the associated issues defined here), this scope of work should be completely acceptable. After all, they have accepted an arrangement where they will provide all services within the scope for payment of the retainer, irrespective of the volume and complexity of this work. However, if we were the agency, I would want something better defined, lest my “all you can eat” retainer become a smorgasbord for the client.

Using a Schedule of Work

For marketers, a schedule of work means that they not only have to provide a definition of the services to be provided by the agency but also the quantity (How many and what types of outputs are required, e.g., 6 Multichannel campaigns, 24/7 community monitoring etc.) and they must also schedule this across the year providing timing indications, (When will these activities be required. e.g., Q1 4 TVCs, Q3. Website e-commerce commences, Social Media Monitoring 9 am – 9 pm seven days a week etc.) and provide an indication of the level of complexity of the task (Providing the scope of the individual task, e.g. Managing a 1.6 million participant community, regional television campaign of six executions across 14 markets etc.).

For procurement, this provides a more detailed understanding of the actual requirements of the supplier and means they are better able to assess the resource requirements and associated costs. While the schedule of work is likely to change throughout the contract, it also allows procurement to develop processes within the contract for capturing this schedule of work and to adjust supplier compensation where required. The specific work schedule also makes the supplier relationship management more accountable and transparent as there are concrete deliverables.

For the agency, the most significant advantage of the schedule of work is the visibility into not only what specific resources are required but also when they will be required. Agencies have very defined resources, and managing the peaks and troughs of the client’s requirements can be costly, stretching agency resources or even requiring freelance resources to manage the peaks. The other advantage for the agency is the fee is set against the schedule of work. If the schedule increases or there are exceptionally high peak periods, the agency can manage these with either the marketer or procurement.

Scope of Work (SOW) or Schedule of Work (SOW)?

Subsequent experience across many years and many advertisers and their agencies reveals these terms are often used interchangeably, and hopefully, reading this has shown there are subtle and significant differences.

If you want flexibility and don’t care about transparency and accountability, I would recommend providing a basic Scope of Work. But suppose you want to make your agency fees more accountable, manage the agency resources more efficiently and provide a work schedule to coordinate all of your agencies. In that case, we recommend transitioning to a more detailed Schedule of Work.

We have always recommended that marketers provide details about their Scope of Work, including timing, volume and complexity. From now on, we can distinguish between a Scope of Work (here are the type of things we want our agency to do) and a Schedule of Work (here is a specific work plan and schedule for our agency).

Which one would you prefer?

Are you interested in knowing more about managing the agency’s scope of work? You can download a free TrinityP3 Scope of Work White Paper here.

Learn more about how TrinityP3 can help you manage your agency’s scope of work and associated fees here.

One thought on “The important differences between scope of work and schedule of work

  1. Darren, my response would be both! Knowing the scope without an indication of the schedule of work or being given a schedule of work without an appreciation of its scope can both be limiting. I suppose that was the point of your post. Know your destination as well as where to start from, when to leave and what route to take and how to travel. As you SOW, so you reap!

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