There are a number of key quality management best practices that need to be adopted to successfully manage a statement-of-work (SOW) project or service.

Not staff aug. One is recognizing that SOW engagements are not staff augmentation or simply the curation and deployment of talent/skill sets into an established process. Staffing Industry Analysts has pressed this definition incessantly to the point of aggravation, but, applying quality management practices used in staff augmentation applications will leave one very short if one uses the same practices in managing quality performance on a SOW engagement. There is very distinctive quality management approaches not applicable with the other.

Defining the service. Another best practice is the initial engagement design and service deliverable definition. Once the core parties (buyer and provider) of a SOW project agree to what the engagement will entail, you can define the quality performance and how it will be measured. This initial assessment must be carefully researched and detailed so all the engagement requirements are understood. On the surface, this seems self-explanatory, but the definitional nature of this SOW engagement design step will limit unnecessary, expensive change orders during execution of the SOW engagement and deliver higher levels of engagement stakeholder satisfaction as a result.

Too often, an SOW engagement is poorly defined, leaving the project underfunded and under-resourced, and requiring expensive changes that can burden both the client and solution provider. Initial, competent, SOW project design will serve as a bedrock of the quality performance delivered in the end. A poorly defined SOW project invites costly scope creep or failure to meet the overall objectives of the SOW engagement itself by delivering poor results.

Align with end user’s needs. Alignment with the client’s needs and requirements is a SOW engagement quality management best practice similar to the abovementioned best practice of a carefully designed/constructed statement of work assignment. A SOW client is trying to secure a project deliverable and/or service that enhances an overall business objective. Simply, the ultimate engagement quality analysis will be determined on how well the final deliverable value met that need in achieving that business objective. The SOW engagement deliverable value will be defined on price, speed to execute, meeting deliverable specifications, and other factors. How manageable and skilled was the resourced SOW talent will be a factor, but other factors mentioned will weigh more importantly in determining SOW quality project/service value and engagement satisfaction.

Clear contract. Creating a useful, standard SOW management contract will also be a best practice where the contract includes clauses that allow the proper lifecycle management of the SOW engagement. These contract clauses articulate steps and actions that need to be taken to ensure the successful execution and completion of the project. Whether we are discussing phases of project progress reviews, signoffs and installment payments; to change order control and approvals; to project ownership transitions; to work product protection and IP ownership; to escalation path procedures for non-performance or other lesser concerns. The key is to create an SOW contract that places a client in a strong position to determine corrective steps if the SOW project engagement is heading in an unwelcome direction.

Proper project launch and schedule. Properly launching the SOW engagement is key as a quality management best practice along with creating a “phase management” schedule that staggers milestone payments for required project completion points. It’s important to distribute project payment across the engagement when specific costs are actually being incurred during the execution of the project. But equally important is building trust and confidence at milestone review points that the outcome of the project/service is on track and will successfully meet its planned completion time frame and deliverable specification. Ultimately, SOW engagement satisfaction and value management need to take place over the entire lifecycle of the SOW engagement. This might seem a little burdensome in a staff augmentation engagement, but SOW management milestone reviews and frequent progress updates can sometimes be associated with actual progress payments, hence, these progress review touch points are more welcomed and required occurrences.

For most CW program managers, these best practices will be executed initially by an MSP or SOW services partner. Hence, extending some of these best practice approaches might take some effort and negotiation with your SOW management partners. In many cases, they will already be operating with some of the best practices mentioned and more. But the emergence of direct sourcing of SOW engagements or when engaging independent contractors to execute SOW project/services, CW program managers will need to more closely adopt the management of SOW business activity with some fundamental quality management best practices to be successful.