So, you’ve selected your system integrator partner, third-party vendors, and independent consultants. The contracts are ready and being reviewed, and the troops are already arriving at your organizations campus reporting for duty. Wait… Wha? But the contact hasn’t been signed!? We’re still negotiating. 

This DOES happen. Regardless of your prep, one of the key issues programs suffer with early on (in terms of budgeting) is dealing with the unexpected Roll On and Roll Off of both contractors and employees within a specific program. The larger the scale of the program, the easier for oversight of resources to creep in unexpectedly. 

One client I worked with had this very issue. It was one that actually continued throughout the project in various ways. From the first week of the program, before a contract had been finalized (due to continued rewording of portions of it by the outside firm), consultants were rolling in the doors in mass. Billable hours were then in play, as they waited for not only office space, but direction from both organizational leadership, as well as their own managers (who had yet to arrive). The negotiations went on for a number of weeks until it was signed. However, the consultants had already racked up a good amount of billable hours. In this case leadership did put them to use and began project delivery, squelching the potential money suck from getting out of hand; but it could have been a lot worse.

There are a couple of key take-aways from this experience that you should prepare for just in case this ever happens to you.

Take-Away 1:  There is usually some excitements from both sides of the table to get a large-scale digital transformation program going.  Both parties have already made commitments to leadership.  For the organization, the forecasted spend and key delivery dates and on the system integrator side the forecasted billables and receivables.  However, if the final negotiations have not yet been completed on the Master Statement of Work I would highly recommend setting up an initial mini Statement of Work or Letter of Intent to get ball rolling.  This is usually an agreement that is in place for a month or less while the final T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted on the Master SOW.  It usually covers the scope of staffing, deliverables that were expected to be completed in the first month of your engagement, plus your basic terms and conditions.  Once this is in place, then you can start the work.  You will then take these costs and deliverables out of the Master SOW.

Take-Away 2:  Make sure your on-boarding process is ready.  The worst thing that can happen to a new startup program is to have all of these very expensive consultants show up on your doorstep and you don’t have a place for them to sit, you don’t have internet or intranet access for them, they don’t have access to the applications needed to get going, etc.  When I see this on a new Program I just visualize an open basket of hundred dollar bills and someone dumping them out a window where they are lost forever.  If these resources are billing you then you want these resources productive the minute they step into your building.  That means they should have their access cards ready, their login IDs and passwords already set up for each of the environments they will need for your program and they have an appropriate working place per the terms of your engagement.

Take-Away 3:  As you probably have done for Master SOW or Individual SOWs, make sure you document in your letter of intent a set firm milestones for your consulting partners to meet before invoicing can or will be paid. Without this being thought out and planned for, your budget could take a heavy hit and endanger other aspects of the program as a result.

Lastly, as part of your on-boarding and off-boarding processes, create a repository of each and every contractor, consultant, and  employee that is or that you expect to engage with the program. As part of this repository make sure you have documented the expected roll-on and roll-off dates, as well as the actual roll-on and roll-off dates. An even better repository would capture the actual hours billed by billing period.  This repository will be  exceptionally helpful in understanding your budget position, how it’s fairing, and more importantly where you might have to adjust one way or another. Knowing in advance with some actionable intelligence will assist in ensuring a value of the program and ROI for the organization.