Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why PMs should be involved in writing the SOW.

I know a certain Project Manager (PM) who we’ll refer to as “Bob.”

Bob has been with a number of service organizations that use the Professional Service Organization (PSO) model, where resources are used as a service to clients to implement software or as staff augmentation. In all of them, he is or was part of a Project Management Office (PMO) within the PSO. In some cases, management brought the PM into the project during the initiation phase, whereas in others they did not. Bob saw the issues that surfaced when the PM was not involved in the Statement of Work (SOW) portion of the initiation phase. Bob acknowledges that even though a PM may be busy with project work, the PM must make time for SOW meetings and be an active participant in estimating the SOW.
What are the benefits of having a PM involved in the development of the SOW, or even better, in writing the SOW?

The PM brings knowledge of the process for the project

When Bob is called to participate in the SOW process of a project, he brings with him the knowledge of working a project within that organization. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s PMO process and he can communicate the process in terms that the others in the SOW portion understand. Bob’s knowledge helps others in that group understand if the deployment date that the client is requesting is actually feasible. Bob intrinsically knows that a project to implement a service for a client will take 3 or 6 months. So, if a client is requesting a deployment date in early December and the SOW is being negotiated in October, and the service takes 6 months to deploy, even if the project if fully staffed during the duration of the project with the same resources, the SOW is effectively dead on arrival.

The PM brings knowledge of the repeat client

Bob also brings with him the knowledge he has from working with the client on previous projects. This is invaluable to the other members of the group writing the SOW, mainly because Bob will know how long the SOW will take to be approved based on reasons ranging from the client’s legal review process to the client’s procurement process. Bob will also bring the knowledge of the client’s resources and the needs that client will have during the project. He will also know whether the client has available resources to start the project immediately or if the client will need some time to attain their own resources to begin the project. Bob knows, for example, that if a service to be implemented needs new hardware, how long that client will take to deploy the hardware and what that will do to the time to deploy that service.
Bob also knows the resources and management at the client and how they operate and react to tasks assigned to them. So Bob brings reality to the SOW process and arms his SOW team with the knowledge they need to negotiate the SOW with the client.

The PM brings knowledge of resource allocation for that project

As important as knowing the process and the client, Bob also understands the resource allocation constraints of the organization. He knows that a certain large current project is consuming large number the organization’s limited resources.  So even if the client is requesting a deployment date that may be reasonable to the SOW team, it may not be attainable due to resources being utilized on another project. So the resources needed to conduct the project being negotiated may have to state that it will take X number of weeks to begin the project. This is something clients hate to see, but if communicated properly by the SOW team, the client can be brought around to understand.
Also, if the client needs to purchase new hardware or requisite software for the service being implemented in the SOW, the SOW team can use this as an explanation and bargaining chip to the client.

Bob understands that being a PM doesn’t just mean being part of a PMO. It often means that he will be tasked to be part of a SOW team or even asked to begin the SOW because he has worked with that client before. If the organization has the business sense to tap Bob’s knowledge, then the organization will more likely be successful.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.