As far back as the late 1990s, incorporating SOW would have been considered farfetched, if not implausible. After all, we were at the early gestation of contingent workforce management and it took a lot of hard work, some bumps and bruises just to get the staff augmentation portion of CW programs right. Now, more and more programs are looking to bring SOW projects or services into scope — or at a minimum, strongly considering the possibilities of doing so.

Effectively implementing SOW spend into a CW program comes with many challenges. The biggest is having an effective change management strategy in place to help engagement managers with what will be a significant shift.

Considering most SOW management initiatives are immature compared to staff augmentation within CW programs, I will look at the changes in behavior and responsibilities through the lens of a new CW program SOW management initiative with little to no maturity.

Before. Generally speaking, engagement managers have been responsible for end-to-end delivery of products and services. They have had direct access to suppliers and have been responsible for negotiating terms and conditions; gaining approval for budget and/or purchase orders; managing the project deliverables and facilitating milestone payments; and following corporate policies and procedures.

After. Managers will still be responsible for end-to-end delivery of projects and/or services, but with greater governance oversight and visibility. Still, engagement managers may have direct access to suppliers and be responsible for negotiating terms and conditions. Gaining approval for budget and/or purchase orders, though, may occur within the technology along with managing the SOW engagement deliveries. Facilitation of payments may occur within the technology and/or be conducted by the MSP. The MSP will maintain the responsibility for following corporate policies and procedures and general oversight.

These changes, although small, can affect the As-Is State of doing business and could be a hindrance to the engagement manager. For example, the new process will slow down the delivery of solutions. If the SOW portion of the business is implemented and managed correctly, though, the delay in delivery should be nominal; such negatives would be outweighed by the benefits of visibility and control by far.

Adjustment. Your change management strategy must include a transition period to help managers adapt to the new way of conducting SOW work. Also, it is critical to gain C-level approval, and your mission statement should align with the organizational goals and objectives for implementing SOW into your contingent workforce program. High touch with managers will also be critical to the success of this endeavor; your value proposition should add value to the organization and your message to the managers will need be tied to the organizational benefits and why the engagement manager will benefit from these changes.

These changes will not be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. As CW programs continue to press forward and incorporate SOW, the beneficiaries will be the SOW ecosystem.