It's a Bird, a Plane ... an SOW?

Statement of work is the buzz word in today’s CW world. But there is a lot of ambiguity about what SOW really is. From my discussions with contingent workforce managers and industry insiders, it’s become clear to me that defining the space and knowing what type of work should be classified as true statement of work and what should not is their biggest challenge.

The bottom line is many people are confused about what SOW is delivering and when it’s appropriate to use it. I hear from the staffing agency grapevine that many companies are filling out a statement of work for every single contractor coming on board. Everything from a basic help desk analyst all the way up to a high-level independent contractor is treated as a SOW at some companies. People think this is a way of mitigating the co-employment risk. It’s not. Further, in many cases, filling out a SOW form is not even required.

Some people believe that success in this space requires someone to own it and become the expert. Of course, that’s not as simple as it sounds. “I think companies need a combination of an in-house person and an outside provider, a sort of hybrid ownership,” says Andrew Zarkadas, VP of business development at the Guidant Group, a provider of contract staffing and workforce solutions.

To begin with CW managers need to educate themselves, to arm themselves with information. One way they can do this is to connect with the right third party SOW vendor to help manage the process. The CW manager then will develop policies and processes around SOW workflow keeping in mind company culture, business rules as well as threshold for risk.

Developing a collaborative relationship — with both sides handling some aspect of SOW consultants — is the best bet. “I don’t think you’re ever going to see full ownership of those SOW consultants going to an outsource provider. I think much of it is going to be owned internally. That outsource provider is going to provide the visibility, reporting tools and workflow around administrative process,” Zarkadas says.

The outsourced provider handles the day-to-day administration of these SOW consultants. These vendors bring experience, thought leadership and best practices to the table. After all, they have the advantage of managing SOWs day in and out across numerous industries,

But the customer has responsibilities, too. Among them is letting the providers do their job. At the same time, the SOW space is evolving daily, so CW managers need to be sure to keep up with trends and stay informed. You might have an SOW program that already works, but don’t rest on your laurels. Keep in touch with what’s going on with your peers. There’s always room for improvement.

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