Competitive Intelligence Research: Staying On Track
(Time Spent on Developing a Project Scope Statement is an Investment for Success)
Over more than 30 years as a Competitive Intelligence and Market Research professional, I have successfully delivered valuable insights to clients in a wide range of industries. The biggest successes have occurred where clients developed a project scope statement where they articulated:
- Why they need the research (issues/challenges to be addressed),
- What they are looking for (the scope and depth of the research),
- Where are the sources of information (internally and externally),
- How they are going to use the findings (possible actions to be taken in response to the research findings – even if the findings challenge set assumptions),
- Who will do conduct the research and the resources that will contribute to the success of the project,
- When will the project start and end, and
- A budget dedicated to the research project.
Whether the research is being conducted internally or through a research provider, the project scope statement provides clarity of objectives and all parties (including stakeholders and internal clients) must agree to the terms of the statement.
What to Include in a Project Scope Statement
Given the limitations of the information that can be provided within this short article, here is what I think are the most important elements to include in a project scope statement.
- A justification for the project (such a problem or challenge faced by the company, or even an information requirement for marketing and sales purposes);
- Assumptions regarding the subject of the research, that is, what the company thinks it knows about the subject that research is meant to prove or disprove.
- What specific data points are needed for the project? For example, in a competitor research project, data points may include: pricing, warranties, terms and conditions, target markets, special offers, etc.
- What specific competitors or market segments should be targeted for the research project?
- Where are the sources of information? Are they external (e.g., competitors or non-clients)? Are they internal (e.g. client database, data from customer service and sales, etc.
- Determine the best way to access the sources of information (e.g. survey, mystery shopping, in-depth interviews, etc.)
- How will the findings be used? This is tied in to the WHY segment of the project scope statement is likely the most important part because it weighs so heavily on the ultimate success/failure of the project.
- If the findings are contrary to the company’s assumptions, what will be the reaction of the key decision-makers or stakeholders? Will the findings be rejected or will the reaction be to accept the findings and make the changes, however difficult, to meet the challenges or opportunities uncovered by the research.
- This is the “Who will do what?” question that determines the division of labour for the project.
- If the project is outsourced to a research provider, what resources are expected from them? What resources will the client company provide to the research provider?
- If the project is conducted internally, what departments, personnel or other resources are required for the project? Who will be the main contact(s) and what cooperation or coordination will be needed?
- The timeline: when will the project begin and end?
- If more time is required, how much extra time will be needed?
- This is especially important if the project is being outsourced.
- Is the budget sufficient for the project? If not, can the budget be justifiably increased?
- If the budget cannot be increased, can the project scope be reduced without affecting the expected outcomes to such a degree that the project cannot be justified.
CAVEAT: Avoid Mission Creep
Mission Creep is the expansion of the project scope beyond its original goals. This is especially destructive when it occurs during the execution of the project and resources are redirected to areas of research that have no bearing on the main objective of the project.
A project scope statement is an important to tool for success. Time spent on developing a comprehensive document is time invested in not only the project’s success, but also the success of your company.