Decipher the SOW
Let's face it, we all live and die by the statement of Work (SOW). Estimates are the lifeblood of how any firm operates. How you decipher them puts you in the driver's seat, so long as you know what to look for and how to make sure you get what you need. In order to work with external providers, understanding the SOW means having clarity on deliverables. As with any legally binding document, a contractor should carefully review each SOW before signing.
However proper scrutiny is oftentimes not implemented - for a variety of reasons - and expectations may be missed or fall through the cracks into the land of "Never Delivered". Modern executives live busy lives and may feel stressed to move projects forward but don't have the time to go over the details of every document that passes across their desk. While Providers may have existing relationships with Contractors, "trust" in what's been submitted is no reason to sign. This is especially true, and scary, when considering virtually all SOW's today have significant 'terms and conditions' that can affect delivery. When it comes to partnering with or hiring an outside Provider, time to review the SOW submitted is more important than a lot of other things.
Wasted time, money and even legal battles can stem from misunderstandings an SOW's content. We take this very seriously at Venuiti. We've seen a lot of what we call "Provider abuses" in our day, in many cases stepping in to solve a situation that resulted from poor documentation. But, we're also a Contractor too, and as such, we apply our own expectations to the SOW's we write to support our partners, they deserve no less than what we demand. So, we thought it would be good to share our checklist for how we evaluate SOW before we sign on the dotted line:
What exactly are we getting?
Often, Providers will list vague terms - example "social media integration". This could mean anything from adding social media buttons, to posting on social media, to reviewing social media content or simply just providing a social strategy. In addition, to further this example, social media could refer to one social media platform or many of them. Now, one side may believe that social media integration means only one of these tasks whereas the other thinks it means all of them. Companies will sometimes sign such SOW's assuming the correct deliverable - we all know what happens when one Ass-U-Me's... A Contractor must always set strict standards on what is expected from SOW's (we even recommend forwarding an in-house template as a way to insure proper delivery of information) and to not sign anything until such standards are met. It will take a little more work up-front, but will alleviate major headaches in the future;
What are the deadlines?
What are the support costs?
Are there any hidden fees?
Not part of the checklist, but important to note, understand your currency and foreign tax issues too. It's truly vital to have absolute clarity on currency. What currency is the SOW written in? What conversion rate will be applied because it changes almost everyday these days? Will it be static or determined by the market at the time of payment? What currency will the balance be paid in? If currency conversion is required, who will pay the cost of conversion? All of these need to be answered.
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