B uilding a successful SOW management program can be a challenge.
Most companies have at least some level of process complexity or process gaps (or both), tool diversity (VMS, ERP, contract management system, HRIS, etc.), governance misalignment, and resource constraints. All of these conspire to make building your SOW program interesting, if not completely impossible.
It’s easy to get lost in the myriad SOW management challenges, making it seem impossible to chart an achievable path forward. However, with clarity of purpose and a focus on simplicity, getting started is not as daunting as it may seem. Here are some tips to guide you through your SOW program journey, which are explained in greater detail below:
· Know your existing SOW process
· Program future state: Take advantage of expert advice
· Program improvement: Focus on simplicity and making an impact
· Maximize the VMS
· Create value gravity, or the “pull mentality” (we explain this a bit later)
· Deliver, deliver, deliver
Know your existing SOW process
During due diligence, you will likely map your existing processes and tools that connect to or support SOW creation and management. I recommend using swim lane diagrams to map your processes; these organizational flow charts will enable you to create complete process flows, identifying responsible parties and discovering where processes intersect or diverge. The strong visuals are easily understood, making them useful in defining your end state.
As you map the processes, be sure that you understand and document the systems used in each step. Examples include VMS, ERP, contract management system, HRIS, time entry systems, access systems, asset management systems, project management tools, and spreadsheets. Identifying the tools now will make defining your end-state journey (including tools integration) easier and help avoid pitfalls later.
Program future state: Take advantage of expert advice
As you begin the process of defining your program’s future state, you will surely be given targets and objectives from your key stakeholders. However, it’s important to recognize that your stakeholders may not truly understand what is possible or desirable in SOW management. You must engage thought leaders and subject-matter experts to define your future state. Savvy leaders will, at some point, want to benchmark your SOW program against ‘the market.’ So, it’s better to know how ‘the market’ defines ‘good’ or ‘success’ which allows you to visibly incorporate those market perspectives into your future-state design. Additionally, experts will be able to provide sage advice that will help you avoid pitfalls and deliver value faster on your improvement journey.
Program improvement: Focus on simplicity and making an impact
As you begin to chart your path from current state to future state, focus on simplicity and making an impact. It’s easy to get energetic in this process and try to solve every problem (no matter how small) or create an impossible-to-deliver utopian future state without even realizing it.
To keep your plans reasonable, periodically take a step back and ask yourself:
· Are my plans simple enough to be achieved with the time and resources I have?
· Do I have contingency or are my plans and targets too much of a stretch?
· Will my actions and end state have a positive impact on the company?
· Will my stakeholders view the impact I create positively?
Maximize the VMS
Utilizing a VMS in your SOW program should be an obvious necessity. Interestingly, many companies only leverage a small portion of the power a VMS can deliver to an SOW program. Here’s how to improve your situation:
· Put all SOW transactions in the VMS.
· If your VMS has clause-management functionality or the ability to put the entire SOW content into fields (like Beeline and IQN), then do it. You’ll vastly improve your reporting and analytics capability in ways you may not realize today.
· Understand all of the VMS’s SOW functionality—billing and commercial capabilities, electronic signature, clause libraries, contract management, change control, etc.
· Make use of trusted, expert partners, like an MSP, to help you maximize the value of your VMS.
· Ask questions of your VMS provider and an MSP — what can your VMS do to deliver value in SOW management?
Create value gravity (the ‘pull’ mentality)
One of the easiest ways to gain traction when bringing change to your organization (and achieve success) is by creating what I call ‘value gravity.’ Simply stated, value gravity is created when others deem something so valuable they are drawn (pulled) to it, as if it had the power a gravitational force. An example — you implemented a process that was so much easier than the current state, pulling users to it so they proactively chose the new process over the old one. Data and analytics that leaders rely on for key, strategic decisions can create value gravity. It could also be created through savings that measurably impact the company’s bottom line.
Deliver, deliver, deliver
Probably the most obvious aspect of your SOW change journey is that you will be required to deliver on your commitments. The key is to deliver early (no matter how small)—consciously incorporate quick wins in your plan, so that this can happen. Delivering early will generate confidence in your program and plans and accelerate support. Ensure that your plans are achievable over the life of the program because while delivering early is great, you must be sure to deliver often and always.
Finally, adapt early. If the plans must be changed, identify the change early, communicate the change and execute on the changed plans. Then maintain or rebuild confidence by delivering early and visibly on the changed plans.