There is a definite feeling of accomplishment when a contingent workforce program manager successfully implements their program initiative. Having technology in place; processes, procedures and policies documented; risks identified and mitigated; and visibility to real data enables them and their organization to make important program business decisions.
So, how do you think they feel about their organization’s statement-of-work category? Frustration is the word that comes to mind based on conversations I’ve had with CW program managers. Knowing the value their program provides by having the reliable data, information and visibility available at almost the click of a button but not being able to provide that for a worker category where spend is significantly higher and the risks much greater is indeed “frustrating.”
The challenge is that the SOW process and the management-enabling technologies that support those processes often are fragmented and scattered throughout the organization. Procurement may utilize an e-procurement system, purchase orders may be tracked by another group, resources may be tracked within the VMS and then the actual deliverable/milestone is the engagement manager’s responsibility. Being able to bring all this data together is critical but not necessarily easy.
We know it is imperative to have the visibility so let’s understand how a CW program manager can start to create this management visibility for SOW spend activity.
Define the system of record(s). As we mentioned above, the data collection and information can be very fragmented. Although you may not have one single solution technology tool from a system perspective, you need to define the systems where data will be captured and curate an integrated management perspective. To help make this successful and possibly easier, be sure to include stakeholders from the different groups and listen to their insight and concerns. Knowing the challenges and working together to overcome them with a unified visibility goal in mind will enhance the adoption and speed up this definition process.
What information to capture? Once the data-tracking tool (system of record) infrastructure is decided, it is important to determine what type of information will be captured. Things to consider: who will it be presented to; what performance metrics you are trying to manage and at what frequency; and what are the underlying business objectives, drivers, and strategies that need visibility. Remember, useful data is powerful so you want to make sure the data and information you curate is delivering the required story/visibility.
Create a data governance process. This is critical. Somebody needs to own the governance of the data to ensure that it’s completed accurately and managed over time. Without this governance, you’ll see inaccuracies, gaps, and limiting resource investments in the data curation, which can ultimately affect leadership’s confidence in and ability to use the data to drive business decisions. Including key stakeholders from Procurement, IT, Legal, Finance and Internal Audit support/sponsorship is imperative.
Prepare and align the data. With so much information available from so many sources, next you need to prepare the data and align it to the governance process. Preparing the data can include standardizing currencies, formatting numerals correctly, hierarchy structure or harmonizing metadata. The following steps outline how to prepare the data within the governance process:
- Collect and clean: This could involve collecting survey data from internal sources, or in the best-case scenario, retrieving data from a strategically configured system of record(s) such as a vendor management system.
- Compile: Populate a scorecard or a similar visibility report with the SOW engagement program’s data showing performance relative to the whole (e.g. comparing SOW solution partners and managed service provider (MSP) representatives to the aggregate of other suppliers/ MSP representatives). Knowing when you are not happy with a provider is one thing, having the data to support your stance is so much more powerful.
- Interpret: Try to make sense of the data by explaining spikes and dips in demand or the SOW engagement performance and make inquiries about unexplained deviations. Look for and make sense of patterns found in data. Being able to hold people accountable or to question a decision is easier when you have data and facts to support the inquiry.
Execute. Once the reports are built, you can begin to execute on the reporting strategy. This step may include the design and development of a scorecard tool. This is where the real fun can begin, but remember use the data to drive behaviors and decisions. Also, it is important that there’s an owner responsible for executing the reporting strategy and they have a good understanding of how to extract/curate the data to customize the reporting capabilities.
Analyze the data. Remember, data is powerful. Be sure to talk to the trends it shows, how it’s informing your strategy and where you might need to pivot actionable management. It’s not enough to just send reports to business leaders. You want this visibility to be insightful, actionable and valuable.
Data governance is critical. Ensure that comprehensive, quality data is captured within the SOW process management tool infrastructure. It’s important to note that your reporting strategy shouldn’t be static; it should evolve along with the maturity growth of your SOW engagement management/services procurement management strategy and any changes in business goals and/or objectives.
Visibility is a critical management tool for any corporate program function, especially for a potentially fragmented, worker spend category such as SOW engagements. Being able to bring that visibility to an organization with this critical area of spend and risk allows a program manager to go from being frustrated to being exhilarated.