Tales of Horror: SOW Edition | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On October 19, 2015

Everyone involved in the deal-inking end of an outsourcing engagement has a love/hate relationship with SOWs. They’re necessary, of course. But, do their creation and iteration need to be painful? They don’t, but buyers and service providers tend to make them more difficult than they need to be.

Here are some of my SOW development tips to make everyone’s life a little easier.

No one knows what Risk Management is

Not even George Costanza from the Seinfeld television show. (If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you’ll catch the joke.) This is why it’s imperative to write clear definitions in any SOW you create.

  • E.K.W.A.Y.R.T (Not Everyone Knows What Acronym You’re Referring Too) – Every company loves their acronyms, but no matter how obvious you think they are, spell them out. You’d be surprised how many people you’re confusing
  • Where’s Waldo – In the definition of terms, simply writing, “as defined in the document” tells people nothing. Tell them where (e.g. “As defined in section 4.1”) and you’ll save readers a lot of searching
  • Change Management – Ask five people how they define Change Management and you’ll get some very different answers. Even if you think a term is industry standard, define it. You’ll save yourself a lot of arguments in the future on what was in-scope versus out-of-scope.

Redlines Redlining is Aan artArtartArt

I have an image of service providers sitting around a table, drinking Cognac, and laughing about how many redlines they will put into a document. If this is a real thing, please stop. It makes everyone but you sad.

  • Very Sneaky Service Providers– If you redline a document, and then ”accidentally” turn track changes off when changing part of the wording in your favor, people will catch it, and it won’t look good for you. Don’t do it
  • Jigsaw Puzzles – I love jigsaw puzzles, but having a service provider rearrange an entire document just for fun makes me cringe. Yes, we know you’re a provider, which means you think you walk on water, but organization can be done later. Focus on the content
  • Vulcan Logic – Always have an independent source re-read an entire document before submitting it to a buyer/service provider. Dividing a document among four different people then duct taping it back together doesn’t work. There are always contradictions, and it makes documents unclear and illogical. Star Trek’s Spock would not be impressed

Nay one und’rstands what ye are writing

We get it. You were an English major and studied Shakespeare, but the people who are going to live and breathe the contract likely weren’t and didn’t.

  • Shift+F7 – Using a thesaurus was great when submitting English papers in high school, but in a SOW, the simplest words often work best
  • Lawyers get paid by the word – Stay away from terms in a SOW that imply something is to be done. Use firm language like “will” and “must.” Don’t worry about what the lawyers will do after. Focus on making sure responsibilities are clear so the attorneys understand the concept, and then let them make their millions
  • Copy-Paste – Let’s be honest…we all re-use content. Copying and pasting great IP is great, if it flows. But it often doesn’t. It’s worth taking the time to rewrite a section, or very carefully reviewing your paste job, to make sure your document flows correctly.

Having anxiety attacks just thinking about working on your next SOW? These tips may be just the natural remedy you’ve been searching for.


Photo credit: Flickr

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