SoW and the future of work
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SoW and the future of work

19 April 2021 By Lucy Simpson – Category Manager of HR Services at YPO

Steve Dilley consultancy+

Our strategic partners, Consultancy+ recently ran an event looking at Statement of Work (SoW) and the future of work. As this is such a hot topic for many of our customers, we decided to catch-up with Steve Dilley, the Managing Consultant at Consultancy+ to find out what the key takeaways were from the session.

Hi Steve, how are you?

Yes, very busy at the moment but well. All of the IR35 changes have hit us with requests for support and advice.

Can you quickly give us an overview of what the event was that you ran and what sort of things you were discussing?

Sure. The topic was all about the future of work and the move for organisations towards outcome based working – from both their internal and external workforce. It goes without saying that the last 12 months have changed the working world dramatically and both people and organisations have had to adapt to remote working at a pace that they weren’t expecting. This has put a lot of pressure on various parts of the organisation from management training to getting kit out to people and has had people racing to update HR and security pieces.

Alongside the pandemic we have also had Brexit, we have seen the continued development of the Gig Economy and from a contractor and contingent market perspective, we have the changes in IR35. And what organisations have found is that there is no value in replicating normal, and in most cases, yearning for a return to normal. To use one of my favourite quotes from Ed Yong at The Atlantic “Normal led to this”.

So, what we have seen is a dramatic shift in the way organisations are engaging and working with their people. This shift is away from traditional models of oversight and direction and to more of a Trust Based Model built around allowing your people to work to their own schedules and patterns, providing they are working at the level required and delivering the outcomes required.

This drive on outcomes is a real change for many people both those setting the outcomes (managers) and those delivering them. As I said, all of this comes against a wider back-drop which is forcing organisations to look at things like SoW based models and outsourcing agreements to be able to get the skills and expertise they need to their thinking.

This event was targeted at trying to share some thoughts and information around this shift to outcome based working, and how organisations could look to assess what’s right for them and implement sustainable and successful change around their people strategy in relation to outcome based working. It was great, we had people from both the private and public sectors and had break-out rooms, panel debates and some live polling as well to get the temperature of the room.

So, what was discussed and what were the key findings?

It was a really interesting session actually and surpassed our expectations in how it caught the imagination as we had over 200 people attend (more than we were set-up for in truth!). We also learned that the topic is so big that two hours really didn’t give it justice and we’re looking at arranging some further sessions about how to procure services, as well as organisational design and reward.

In terms of the key topics that came out:

  • Options will drive agility
    The uncertainly of the future means that to close off different ways of accessing and managing expertise, as well as different ways of achieving outcomes is a risky business. The employment landscape will be dramatically altered by all of the factors mentioned above (COVID-19, Brexit and IR35) and no one really knows what that landscape will look like. So, ensuring that your organisation remains agile is key to being able to deal with whatever comes it’s way. Things like flexible framework call-off agreements, building internal delivery capacity, adapting to a more transient internal workforce, maturing your approach to managing services based agreements and supporting your managers through the change with clear direction and communication will all help to ensure that you can roll with the punches and continue to deliver services.

  • It’s not always right all of the time
    When looking at things like SoW solutions, people felt that there can be a view that they are a silver bullet and the answer to all ills. The old idea that “we are struggling to work something out so we will get a consultancy in” was something that people generally challenged, as too often the requirement or problem runs deeper. Whilst the view was overwhelmingly that SoW and outcome based working was a fundamental part of the future, people were clear on the need to exercise caution and make decisions on wider business needs and values than knee-jerk reactions to single topics or short-term issues/needs.

  • Organisational maturity is key
    Wanting to implement something and being able to successfully implement something are two very different things. Outcome based working as an enterprise wide shift requires systems, policies, process and communication. It can be a seismic shift in the way your people manage, in the way your people are remunerated and in the way that your people allocate and deliver work. This was apparent particularly in the rush to implement solutions in reaction to the changes in the application of IR35, where organisations were focused on the solution to this challenge but the reality of delivering these solutions would likely mean significantly increased capacity and capability to deliver a mature PMO service across your programs - a capability that is a lot more developed in some places than others.

  • Don’t rush it
    Yes, we have all been under pressure to deliver change at pace over the last 12 months, but that doesn’t stop the need for careful and considered planning around which path to take. A period of mass change will in turn allow mass change, but too much change and things will get lost, and the value won’t be realised. When looking at outcome based working with your teams, introducing SoW or outsourcing operations, the group expressed the need to always stand back and think it through.

Great stuff. If we have any readers that want more information, should they contact you?

Yeah, that’s fine. We do offer a few light-touch discovery workshops and diagnostics around SoW and development of outcome based organisations which could be of interest. We can be contacted directly or via the YPO HR services procurement team, we’d be happy to talk through some of the above and try to help.

The wider team will also be able to support – this is something that we are living and breathing every day now and as an early adopter in the space, we have the scars and horror stories of how to do it badly as well as how to do it well, so happy to share.


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