Updated: Jan 18
Statement of Work (SOW) reviews are something that should be done at the outset of every project. Unfortunately, we don’t see enough of this and this can often lead to more challenging discussions later in the project at a time when the project can ill-afford distractions such as contract disputes. In this post I am going to speak to why it is important to conduct SOW reviews with your project teams and customer before the project even begins.
A SOW review with your customer should typically occur during the planning phase of your project and before the project kick off. Why before kick-off? At your project kick off with all project stakeholders in attendance, the project leadership group (typically the vendor PM and executive combined with the customer PM and sponsor) need to be in lockstep in both what the project is going to achieve and who will do what. A disconnect that is visible to all project stakeholders at this juncture will create a fragmented project team and not establish the community of trust that kick-offs are designed to foster. Conducting a SOW review with your project leadership in advance allows you to flush out any misunderstandings or discrepancies in the SOW that may not have come up during contracting and allow for remediation of these discrepancies before the project really takes flight.
What to Look For
When planning SOW reviews with your customer you probably don’t want to spend the entire meeting reading every single line of the document – although that should be a pre-requisite before the meeting is for all interested parties to review the document and bring questions/feedback to the meeting. You do want to focus in in several areas. First – review your list of deliverables and their acceptance criteria. Make sure that you as a group can come to consensus on what the deliverable means and that everyone agrees to what the acceptance criteria (i.e. definition of done) really means. Most of the discrepancies that I have experienced with SOW’s is in this area. The vendor has one idea of what ‘done’ really means while the customer has another point of view. Next – look at the payment milestones and make sure that all parties are aligned on what will be the triggers for the invoices and what the terms are for the customer to pay. In these review sessions it is also important to call out the roles and responsibilities for each party – what is the customer expected to bring to the table as well as the vendor. Ensuring that expectations are clear is the ultimate objective of the SOW review.
Good SOW’s make for a good starting point for a project. Reducing or removing ambiguity helps your project managers and project teams focus on the best way to achieve the work rather than fighting amongst themselves on what is in our out of scope or whether payment needs to be issued. Remember – good contracts are to customers what good fences are to neighbors.