Most project engineers consider themselves competent to write the technical scope of work for a work package. But scoping the provision of project, study or engineering management services requires different skills.
We have worked with our clients to develop scopes of service for ICS, EPCM and feasibility study management services. In our work with our clients with such contracts, we see some common problems. Many of these arise from a scope that is either ill-defined or poorly understood:
- The principal’s expectations are vague, or change often without proper control,
- While requirements are clear, the consultant misinterprets or makes unreasonable assumptions without checking,
- The consultant does not critically review the scope and does not understand its responsibilities,
- The consultant does not put in place adequate controls and management plans before starting work,
- The consultant acts outside its delegated authority,
- The principal takes too long to review deliverables or rejects them unreasonably,
- The principal does not respond to an emerging pattern of under-performance.
In a management contract, the actual technical scope of work may be a minor part of what the consultant must do. At the start of the contract, the principal may not know the technical requirements, other than in broad terms. Eg, “We think a new power station might be profitable for us. Please study this idea and give an opinion on its potential”.
Both principals and consultants seem to have trouble with reaching a mutual understanding of their respective responsibilities and the limits of the management authority.
Management contracts should include a number of clear rules:
- The consultant can act on behalf of the principal,
- The consultant has a contract only with the principal,
- The consultant’s agreement with the principal gives the consultant some authority over other contractors,
- The contract sets out exactly what the consultant can and cannot do in the name of the principal;
- The principal can give more authority to the consultant or take it away at any time; and
- The consultant cannot increase or decrease its authority without permission.
Owners or principals often expect the consultant to define the detailed deliverables. The consultant may (and usually will) develop an execution plan to document how it will deliver the scope.
Like any quality management system, a consulting scope of services concentrates on how the consultant will organise itself to deliver the principal’s requirements.
The scope should:
- Set the owner or principal’s expectations for the delivery and output of the services,
- Define the boundaries of the consultant’s role and responsibilities,
- Specify what management plans and controls the consultant must have in place,
- Identify when the consultant must return to the principal for direction or approval,
- Specify what, when, and how the consultant must tell the principal about its activities, and
- Set out what the consultant must do when it is managing other contractors on the principal’s behalf.