It’s one thing to convert a conversation around a broad scope of work into a well-defined and articulated, 3 to 4-page proposal (sometimes 20 +, depending on whose template you’re using), it’s another thing for a client or customer to read through this document, often, multiple times due to a review and response cycle, before finally agreeing to it.
Most don’t enjoy this process. Client stakeholders usually look for a few key things when it comes to the SOW: price, time (hours) and key dates. Other parts are usually skimmed over or can be missed altogether, at least in my experience.
While the above might be nothing new, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether there’s a better way of doing this – can the client business owner, or nominated stakeholder on behalf of the business owner, be more involved, collaboratively in the SOW writing process so that unified goal between supplier and customer be achieved?
Recent engagements with various stakeholders have made me realise, as a business analyst, how crucial this aspect of the project is and can, at times, be a sore point to reference back to when the project is in-flight, and expectations don’t align with what is in writing. Therefore, entering an engagement with the mindset of getting semantics right from the get go might save from hindering any quality to delivering down the line.
Usually engaging in potential work with a client involves a conversation – not a sales pitch, just simply talking it through. What follows from here for effective SOW writing is what underpins any good collaborative effort – a channel of clear and responsive communication.
It’s best to idealise this process in stages:
- After initial discussion, an email to prospective client containing a skeleton SOW that simply outlines the conversation that was had. This reaffirms the context and conveys listening and understanding from you as the potential solution/service provider. If the engagement is with a new client, convey some understanding of the context around the company
- Avoid fluffing it out with proposal-sounding adjectives and dialogue, keep no-nonsense and to-the-point
- Work with the client to clearly define what is expected to be delivered and how long it could potentially take, based on flexibility or constraints on resources for both sides
- Define what it will cost based on all the known variables – avoid basing this on ambiguity or pre-gap analysis of the outlined work at this stage.
- Add value to the SOW by considering if there’s a better way to do the proposed work. This is something I’ve found that Kloud always maintains when approaching a piece of work
By defining the ‘pre-sales’ in this way, and by communicating effectively with your client during a proposal, the ‘joyless’ experience of writing a SOW (as it can be commonly perceived) may be alleviated and player a smaller role in convincing your client to work with you.
It’s refreshing to view this process unlike a proposal, but rather a conversation. After the discovery call, we should establish confidence in the client with us as consultants. The only thing left to deal with now is the project itself.