Some of the most valued skills a CW program can bring to an SOW management initiative are risk mitigation, cost management/governance, supplier management and talent engagement tracking. These are well-established skill-sets that are easily transferable to an SOW management initiative with a central focus on supplier management.

What most SOW management initiatives fail to provide, though — even mature programs with extensive capabilities — is project management support. This is somewhat logical from a content expertise standpoint where the SOW engagement’s technical content can only be effectively “project” managed by the engagement/assignment manager themselves. The engagement manager is the core player with the technical expertise to certify the production of the desired result and final deliverable.

The end result. But divorcing one’s program management competency completely from any knowledge or participation in SOW project management ultimately limits the effectiveness of the initiative. A key reason is the end-result/deliverable. In staff augmentation, the focus is on the required skill set being delivered to support an engagement manager’s requirements over a period of time. An SOW transaction is targeted at producing a result, and key to this is the project management deployed to accomplish this goal. Needless to say, it needs to be on-time, on-budget and at the quality level required.

Trusty sidekick. Make no mistake: the engagement manager is and should be the lead project management voice in the successful deployment and completion of the SOW deliverables. In many cases, only the engagement manager is qualified to certify the acceptable completion of an SOW deliverable/result. But lacking even a basic understanding of SOW project management compromises the CW program’s ability to deliver some of its fundamental management value.

For example, the mitigation of risk is a key management value of all CW Program objectives. The No. 1 risk of an SOW engagement is “completion” — the risk of the project failing to come in on-time, on-budget and at the quality result level required. How does a CW program provide risk mitigation management in terms of “completion risk” if it is not knowledgeable at some level of the project management practice being executed?

How does a CW program make judgements on unanticipated change orders, or worse, support the correction of a failing SOW engagement, if fundamental knowledge in the project management methodology being deployed is limited or non-existent? How do you certify milestone payments if there is no quality judgment of the project management status of the engagement?

Of course, one could argue that project management is the primary role of the SOW engagement manager and not the role of the CW program. But when projects go south, understanding core project management practices such as Agile or Waterfall can be extremely informative when providing support.

The knowledge base. This is not a clarion call to add extensive, PMP-certified expertise to one’s SOW management initiative. Rather, it’s an appeal to build some project management knowledge that can enhance the business decision making that takes place throughout the lifecycle of the engagement.

Some innovative SOW management initiatives are even going beyond project management knowledge and adding engagement content expertise in high-volume, repeatable SOW spend areas, such as IT, engineering or marketing. The idea is to support SOW engagement managers with their SOW projects that can deliver content expertise and knowledge in the designing, pricing, sourcing, contracting and quality management of an SOW Solution provider and the results delivered.

This enlistment of content experts to help manage suppliers throughout the lifecycle of an SOW engagement is beginning to take place in the marketplace.  It’s not entirely unnatural for a supplier management-focused CW program expertise, because this kind of investment will enhance its risk mitigation expertise, specifically in terms of SOW project completion risk: of on-time, on-budget and at the quality result level required.