Statements of Work are a huge deal in the world of consultancies. They set out in detail precisely what is expected between two parties: what work will be done, by whom, and how delivery performance is measured for payment approval.
But managing Statements of Work is often a mess.
“Most companies rely on Excel or a PDF,” says Paul Rossiter, founder of Contora, a specialist platform for managing Statements of Work. “These are forgotten, or put at the bottom of a drawer, which leads to a lack of clarity when delivering projects. It’s a broken system. We figured out there must be a better way.”
In 2020 he founded Contora to solve the problem. The result is a cloud-based hosting of Statements of Work so that everyone in the supply chain can view and update a single source of truth, placing it front and centre of the project delivery plan.
What Contora does
“It’s a collaboration tool,” says Paul. “It allows all aspects of the Statement of Work to be managed in a totally transparent, compliant and efficient way.”
More than that, Contora brings standardisation. Usually Statements of Work reflect the foibles of the person writing them, in terms of layout and detail. It’s a pain for stakeholders to get to grips with yet another structure and figure it all out.
We create a standardised way of working and provide consistent layout in terms of structure, format, and content that makes it easier to digest the deliverables,” says Paul. “We also automate all of the calculations and embed approval workflows with clear success criteria, so there is no dispute when it comes to invoice payments, because the approvals are aligned with successful delivery.”
Cloud-hosted collaboration tools for other tasks such as word processing and project management can be a godsend for consulting businesses. The idea of reverting to a PDF circulating via email for Statements of Work approval seems anachronistic.
“It’s a massive niche,” confirms Paul. “There are other tools, but they are usually afterthoughts in larger enterprise solutions and quite frankly, they are a very limited. It’s a bit like lifting the bonnet on a Rolls-Royce and finding a lawnmower engine in there. With Contora , we don’t replace the Rolls Royce, we simply upgrade the engine so it’s fit for purpose.”
Contora is ideal for any industry where Statements of Work exist. These include the public sector, technology, retail, construction, consultancy, and healthcare.
“Our solution aligns with modern project delivery practices” says Paul. “The old model was waterfall. Objectives were agreed in advance, and were hard to change because they were embedded in a Statement of Work which utilised a convoluted change process. With our management system there can be a shift to agile working practices. Our tool allows SOWs to be updated and adjusted very quickly. Team members can see when things are going off track and apply course correction accordingly.” He says all projects benefit from this additional agility. “It’s incredibly rare for a piece of work to follow the plan with no revisions. It’s not uncommon for changes to occur before delivery even begins. The Statement of Work needs to be able to incorporate these shifting conditions, and stay as the central point of reference for all stakeholders. Contora ensures this is done with the maximum of ease, whilst maintaining the maximum of compliance rigour.”
Funding from Sonovate
To accelerate the progress of Contora, Paul approached Sonovate who have worked for years with consultancies, helping them to fund payments for consultants and contractors. By funding contractor invoices, Sonovate allows consultancies to focus on winning new projects and scaling up their team without worrying about irregular cashflow, late client payments, funding limits, bad debt, or juggling administrative tasks.
“We did a job for a client who wanted additional support around analysing and understanding their processes,” says Paul. “We supplied consultants, but these were high calibre professionals whose payment terms were different to our client’s. Sonovate allowed us to settle their invoices rapidly without having to delay until the end client pays us. It was an ideal model for us. In the future, when we take on work, we can do so knowing we aren’t hindered by cashflow because we are working with Sonovate.
A potential partnership
Beyond invoice funding for Contora’s project, the two companies are looking to partner to offer a comprehensive solution for consultancies.
“We are building a strategic partnership,” says Paul. “I approached Sonovate’s consultancies team, to see how we could work together. We had a great conversation. It’s clear that many of Sonovate’s clients could benefit from using Contora to reduce the overhead and risk associated with managing Statements of Work, so we are exploring how we can build a partnership. This will be a bilateral partnership, with Contora and Sonovate offering and integrating each other’s products.”
The relationship is beneficial to any consultancies with ambitions to grow. Contora’s Statement of Work management software creates clarity, manages scope creep & risk, whilst funding from Sonovate enables them to unlock capital.
“Sonovate’s partnership with Contora expands our offering to consultancies,” says Oscar Phillips, Senior Consultancies Business Development manager at Sonovate. “We want to help our clients to run projects as smoothly as possible whilst maintaining control and mitigating risk. Contora’s platform means Statements of Work can be updated, viewed and approved by key stake holders on any project. It’s a fantastic tool that can add value to consultancies of all sizes.”
Contora is aiming high. Staff recently moved into the Business Cyber Centre in Chippenham – a large building designed to be the home for the nation’s cutting edge company in the internet security sector, with strong government links. “We are also an HM Government G-Cloud supplier and Crown Commercial Service supplier,” says Paul. “
“We’re in a unique position where we can offer government projects financial transparency, improved governance and reduce risk of off-payroll non-compliance .”
The mission is to make Contora the international standard for creating, hosting, and working with Statements of Work. The partnership with Sonovate enhances the offering of both parties.
“We are in a growth phase,” says Paul. “Sonovate can help us reach our potential without being constrained by cashflow. We can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”