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A Scope of Work is a framework document that will outline the work that will be performed under a contract or subcontract.

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What is a Scope of Work? 

A Scope of Work is a framework document that will outline the work that will be performed under a contract or subcontract. This document is not an actual contract, but it will detail the expectations for the job or project. A Scope of Work is typically broken up into various sections that detail the specific tasks and their individual deadlines.

The Scope of Work document may lead with a statement of purpose, which can be an overview of the job or contract. There can then be individual sections for the specific deliverables. Each section should include detailed information about the task and its deadline. There should also be a section regarding payment. This can include payment for the entire contract or payment per individual task. This information ensures that both parties are aware of their responsibilities regarding the assignment.

The Ultimate Guide to Scope of Work Documents

By FormSwift Editorial Team
June 14, 2018

Introduction

Here is our guide to scope of work documents (SOWs). We cover everything you need to know about SOWs--what they are, their use, what to include, how to draft one, and how to make sure your managers or team members stay within the limits of one.

What is a scope of work document?

A scope of work (SOW) document details the various elements and responsibilities of a project--its life cycle, timeline, size, etc. In general, a project manager drafts SOWs for employees or contractors. SOWs serve as the primary document informing a project; they, therefore, should be clear, concise, thorough, and easy to comprehend.

Components of a SOW

A well-crafted scope of work, sometimes referred to as a statement of work, should include the following components:

  1. Objectives: What is the purpose of the project? What are its goals?
    • The project objectives should be clear, concise, and easy to identify. You want every employee from high-level team members to entry-level assistants reading the document to have no doubts regarding the project’s goals.
  2. Deliverables (and Milestones): What end result must be attained? What are the deadlines or delivery dates for each phase of the project?
    • Deliverables may be measured by phase, period of time, the date of the project’s completion, etc.
      • Project deliverables may be tangible or intangible.
      • Regardless how you measure deliverables, they should be quantifiable.
  3. Variables: Variables include cost, schedule, resources, and the technology required for each phase of the project, from initiation to completion.
    • Each variable should set clear limits on inclusions and exclusions.
  4. Requirements (besides actual output): requirements include all things necessary to support the project.
    • Common requirements include things like a proof of originality.
  5. Tasks: these include a catalog of individual action items required to complete each phase of the project.
    • Tasks should be broken down into a work breakdown structure (WBS)
      • Anything that isn’t part of this WBS is considered outside of the SOW.
  6. Inclusions: this includes anything included in the project in the SOW.
  7. Exclusions: this includes anything not included or specifically stated in the SOW.
  8. Glossary: include a glossary in the SOW. It should explain each acronym used and include definitions of any unusual terms
    • When crafting a glossary, think from the perspective of someone outside the industry. What terms do they need explained, defined, or spelled-out?

Sometimes, a SOW may include a problem statement, which addresses a potential problem that the contractor is addressing for the company, as well as a detailed explanation or working thesis to establish how he or she will resolve such a problem.

Writing Tips: when writing a SOW, be sure to avoid ambiguous phrases or phrases that may be open to multiple interpretations. Furthermore, if something is mandatory, use words such as “must,” to reiterate.

Being Aware of "Scope Creep"

Scope creep refers to the common practice whereby the scope of work expands as the project progresses or changes in a manner whereby it no longer follows the SOW. This is a common problem for freelancers and consultants.

Remember, if a conflict develops because work extends beyond the SOW, legal action is possible. It is also important to remember that both the client and customer can venture beyond the SOW.

Therefore, it is important that either party inquire with the other before project closure, especially if they feel the other side is going beyond the SOW. If the project scope needs to be expanded, it may be necessary to amend the SOW agreement and include additional notes about pay rate, payment schedule, deliverables, etc.

If a customer asks you to expand your SOW, do not simply refuse. Instead, consider telling them that you will need to reevaluate how the new proposed SOW will impact cost, payment terms, the timing of deliverables, the end product etc.

Conclusion

SOWs are common and important contracts between workers and managers. While they are fairly straightforward, it is important that both parties understand how to navigate the more complex, and potentially risky elements of a SOW. We hope this guide provides you with the requisite information to craft and engage with effective SOWs.

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