The Human Consulting Cloud: Is Technology Filling the SOW Gap?

Rich Gardner
January 25, 2017


For as long as people have traded services for money, poorly constructed SOWs (statements of work) have created problems. Decades ago, a poorly designed SOW might have looked like a vague verbal agreement between a cobbler and a man who needed a shoe repair. Today, an SOW engagement is more formal, but the risks of a poorly designed SOW process—from scoping to execution—remain. We’ve all seen the costly consequences: expanded timelines, inflated budgets, and disappointing work products.

Despite our awareness of these risks, it’s easy to see why SOW engagements, particularly for business consulting projects, sometimes fly off the rails. It starts with the challenge of finding the right consultant or firm to work with. Some questions to ask are:

      • Do they have the right expertise?
      • How can I tell if  they are any good?
      • Will I see a return on my investment?

Finalizing an appropriately-scoped SOW is the next hurdle, often made more difficult by an inefficient, offline process that includes dozens of contact points (emails, calls, draft proposals).  Once launched, tracking project progress requires significant time from the project-buyer, especially when unaided by technology tools.

Are Consulting Management Systems the Answer?

The Future is Now

We have all started to see how online talent marketplaces and freelancer management systems (FMS) are changing how companies engage individuals to deploy specific skills (eg, design, technical, coding). The next generation of human cloud platforms, however, illustrate that these use cases have simply been the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. New solutions are bringing together technology and knowledge talent (think strategy and management consultants) to help companies solve the SOW challenges outlined above.

Platforms like Catalant use smart search and matching technology to guide the SOW purchaser through the scoping process, adding relevant tags that assist in matchmaking. They notify only the most relevant consultants (or boutique firms) about projects based on their expertise. If interested, the consultants can then bid to get the work, competing with other consultants based on expertise and budget. This competitive, virtual marketplace ensures buyers get exactly what’s needed within budget and accelerates the time-intensive search for a consulting firm to complete a project.

This transparent, time-saving technology comes at a time when many Fortune 1000 companies are realizing just how much spend occurs on their SOW projects. Many companies have dozens or even hundreds of consultants and firms running around their hallways. Frequently, this “long tail” of consulting spend is not tracked or assessed in a systematic way, resulting in subpar outcomes and higher spend. With the right technology platform, there’s no need to sacrifice quality, time or money.

Knowledge Talent + Technology = SOW Confidence

New technology has provided freedom to SOW buyers. It gives buyers direct access to a talent pool that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. These buyers can feel confident in entering into a SOW consulting engagement with an expert whose ratings from other projects are visible on the platform. And every milestone and deliverable is tracked via the same technology.

At a time when Fortune 1000 companies are increasingly aware of SOW challenges—from scoping to assessing outcomes—technology platforms like Catalant give them access to elite business talent for quality work at a great value while providing tools for measuring their return on investment.

Inefficient processes that too often lead to subpar outcomes no longer need to be the hallmarks of a company’s SOW program. The future of the consulting industry revolves around transparency, a higher standard of work, technology and time-saving value—but only for the companies that choose to evolve with it.

Looking for more information on the future of work? Check out our whitepaper on winning with a flexible workforce.

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Featured in: Enterprise Change Workplace Tech

About the Author

Rich Gardner

Rich is the VP of Strategic Partnership for Catalant. He is a proven operating executive with 15+ years of experience building, leading, and developing high-performing teams in diverse settings, including global B2B sales of professional/information services, high-growth non-governmental organizations, and political campaigns.

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