Sending out a Statement of Work

One of my major job functions as a project manager at Performant Software is to write up statements of work (SOWs).

When a prospective client approaches us with an idea for a digital project that they want to develop, we talk with the client to understand what they are trying to accomplish and what the scope of their resources is. With academic clients, I try to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the project: what is the client’s research or teaching agenda? Does the project come from a particular theoretical approach to the subject matter? How does it fit into the environment of other digital humanities projects?

From these initial conversations, we develop an SOW. I coordinate the process, working with our in-house developers to describe and estimate the needed software. I also get quotes for design work and hosting from outside firms, when relevant. I write up all the expected costs of the project along with a description of the project’s purpose as we understand it and the broad outlines of the software solution we expect to develop. Then I send the SOW to the client, who can use the document in applying for project funds from their institution or from an agency such as the NEH Office of Digital Humanities or the Mellon Foundation.

This morning I sent a finished SOW to a prospective client whose project I really hope to collaborate on. I can’t tell you too much about the project since it is only prospective at this point, but it would involve creating an online electronic archive for a collection of materials relating to a specific topic in African American history. I will be very excited to add this project to our portfolio, if the funding works out and the project goes forward!

Since the prospective client in this case has never done a digital humanities project before, I tried to put a little extra care into explaining what technologies we propose using for the project and why we picked those technologies. My essential job function is to form a bridge between the software developers and the clients, helping the developers understand our academic clients’ objectives and helping the clients understand the technologies we’re working with.

(Soundtrack for this part of the day: Handel’s Rodelinda, performed in English recently at the English National Opera, with Rebecca Evans, Iestyn Davies, Susan Bickley, and John Mark Ainsley.)