Statement of Work (SOW): A definition

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Posted by Joel Capperella

February 25, 2010

A commonly accepted definition of Statement of Work (SOW) frequently reads as follows: "a formal document that captures and defines the work activities, deliverables, and timeline a vendor will execute against in performance of specified work for a customer." (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

It is hard to argue with the accuracy of the statement, as it adequately represents a literal meaning of "statement of work" as a noun. Increasingly, however, SOW is becoming more of an adjective, sending anyone who makes their living maintaining, sourcing, or providing talent to deliver on an SOW in fits and starts.

SOW, as an adjective describing workforce, defines the segment of the talent pool responsible for delivery of specific work products, but that isn't a full time non-exempt employee, temporary staffer, or contracted consultant.

While the SOW has always been used for the business to circumvent head count restrictions, only recently has this category of labor been scrutinized so strenuously for proper treatment. Why? For two simple reasons. An intersection of the two, really.

First, sourcing policies and procedures have evolved to the point where all those involved in sourcing talent (hiring managers, human resources, and procurement) are well armed with information on what they ought to be spending for specific types of talent. More so today than ever before, they understand and have realistic expectations of what specific types of talent should cost.

Inherently, this has lead to the obvious evaluation of SOW for not the deliverable that is achieved, but for the talent necessary for delivery. The quick conclusion is that a SOW has a very real risk of paying a premium. That is, the talent necessary can be acquired for far less than what a consultant would accept.

Secondly, as tired as this may sound, 18 months into the recession, the economic realities demand that consumers of talent execute their acquisition strategies as cost effectively as possible.

The result is a very aggressive campaign to evaluate sourcing procedures for consulting work, as well as the health and scalability of staffing programs. The goal? Establish procedures for defining and executing "real" SOW and deliverable-oriented talent needs.

This begs the question: Can my staff augmentation suppliers partner with us to deliver the talent we need to get the deliverables we want?

The answer is developing as this is being read. In the meantime, consider this: The top tier providers of consultants who work on an SOW basis frequently turn to staffing suppliers to augment their bench.

Topics: Staff Management, HR Strategies

Hiring Managers Guide to IT Staffing


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