Five Days of Focus – Proposals, Contracts, and MSAs

We’re getting ready for 2021 with Five Days of Focus on Project Management essentials. This is Day 1.

Our topic du jour? How to use your proposal, contract, and/or Master Services Agreement to set proper client expectations.

Nobody argues about the importance of finding the best contractual arrangement for you and your client, and that it should also protect everyone involved. But there’s an additional, often-overlooked aspect of creating this agreement that we need to underscore (pun intended): setting and managing client expectations.

The proposal and its importance is a given. But should that document also include your contractual agreement as well? When it comes to the best way to set proper expectations, my answer to this would be no.

What if you could take better advantage of the proposal, before signing the contract to clarify your standards and services?

That’s where the MSAthe master services agreement—comes in. Keep reading and also watch this video for more nitty gritty details on this topic.

The Contract vs. the Master Services Agreement

The master services agreement is not a replacement for the proposal. It is a companion document where most of the “legaleze” resides, along with the detail of the project management processes to which you expect the client to adhere.

TOGETHER, these 2 documents comprise your contract and BOTH must be signed for the contract to be executed.

Why Should the Proposal and Master Services Agreement Be Separated?

Easier for the Client to Digest – I used to have 1 large document that included my proposal and legal agreement. And because I am always adamant the client has the proper expectation about the way web development projects work, it also included many of my processes. That thing was huge! It was wayyy too much for the client to digest at once and I believe it actually LOST me projects. That wasn’t due to the content – it was due to the size of it.

Less Work for You – Because the MSA contains only things that DON’T change from project to project, you don’t have to re-create it for each client. Also, if you do multiple projects for that client, the MSA can stay in force when you present the next proposal.

Shorter Walkthrough Time – The proposal contains the detail of THIS project and where applicable, summarizes certain processes that laid out in detail in the MSA. That means you can walk through the proposal with the client, get their verbal approval to the processes, and they can read the detail later.

In essence, using this 2-document approach is akin to you purchasing a plugin (because it proposes to meet your needs) and agreeing to the terms and conditions (that you may or may not read in full).

MSA Checklist for Setting Proper Client Expectations

  • Communication Plan
  • Change Management Process
  • Acceptance Management Process
  • Content Management Process
  • Risk and Issues Management
  • Requirements Definition Process
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Legal-eze provided by your attorney

Proposal Checklist to Referring for MSA References

  • The Ask (Business Requirements)
    • May refer to Requirements Definition Process
  • Project Scope
    • May refer to Change and Acceptance Management
  • Proposed Solution (including deliverables)
    • May refer to Acceptance Management
  • Time and Cost Estimate
    • May refer to Change Management/Change Budget

When a proposal is accepted with an MSA, it creates process transparency, accountability, and reassurance for all parties involved.

And if you need help crafting your proposal or MSA, we have templates and guidelines inside The WP Project Manager’s Academy. Details for joining are below.

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