The Importance of a Statement of Work in Managed Services Engagements
I’m not a lawyer, but during my career I’ve invested a fair number of hours in reading, writing and revising contracts for managed services and telecommunications. These documents can sometimes be long. The language is often esoteric, and no one likes to read them. As a result, both salespeople and purchasing agents like contracts short, sometimes at the expense of clarity.
On the other hand, good agreements are an absolutely vital component of doing business.They explain the terms under which companies will work with each other and settle disputes. Most importantly, they make clear just what goods and services are being bought and sold. In the managed services world, one component of the agreement is called the scope of work. A scope of work clarifies the work that will be don in the managed services engagement, and who will do it.
Like contracts themselves, statements of work come in all different lengths, but they serve primarily to answer three basic questions:
- What is the work to be performed by the contractor? This section should set forth the goods, services and software that will be provided as part of the engagement. Where IT hardware and software is supplied, it should spell out how your managed services provider will install and configure the devices and what sort of support will be provided after the sale, including warranties, support hours, and response times. For example, when we conduct network assessments for our Hosted PBX service we look at eight different components of our customer’s network to ensure that it is ready for IP telephony.
- What cooperation is required from the customer? In almost every managed services engagement, your contractor will require some level of involvement from you in order to accomplish the goals set out in the first section. This could include providing physical access to your facility, credentials to log in to servers and other network components, and information about your employees and how they use the service to ensure it is configured correctly. For instance, a managed firewall service provider will need details about your current device configuration or access to your current device in order to configure a new device that supports your employee’s work patterns.
- What is specifically not being done? This section is where both parties agree on things that will not be achieved as a result of the engagement. Sometimes misunderstandings arise when one party assumes that because a service is being performed, certain related services are also being done. Another potential pitfall occurs when services are being provided which are in some way related to legal or regulatory compliance requirements.Does the service help you achieve compliance or not? For example, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requires that corporations archive email messages on a dedicated appliance. If you buy a hosted message archiving service, it could be hosted on a shared device, and not help you achieve compliance.
A well crafted statement of work for managed services doesn’t necessarily need to be long, especially if the service provided is fairly straightforward, but it should definitely include all of these elements with enough detail for you to feel comfortable that you’re getting what you need from the engagement. That way, you can avoid unpleasant surprises.