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.
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.
A well-crafted scope of work, sometimes referred to as a statement of work, should include the following components:
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.
A schedule of work is a more detailed, and micromanaged version of a scope of work document. A schedule is a precise form of project management that clearly spells out specific timelines (often daily) and the requirements for each day. The advantage of schedules is that they give your client detailed visibility into the different phases of the project and the allocation of their resources.
A SOW for independent consulting helps the consultant to execute the client’s projects. It sets boundaries for a project and provides metrics and measurements for project goals and objectives. They help facilitate communication between the consultant and client, enabling both parties to stay on the same page, maintain timelines, and manage expectations regarding deliverables. Lastly, SOWs offer protection from disputes relating to both miscommunication and legal action, if necessary.
SOWs for an agency are essentially the same as those for contractors. They ensure that you are not being taken advantage of and are not obligated to complete anything beyond the SOW.
Because of their importance, having a poorly written or excessively broad SOW can cause a project to become unnecessarily complicated or labor intensive. It is therefore essential to create a well-crafted SOW document.
Moreover, make sure any SOW you craft is one you can actually afford--time, effort, resources, etc.
A SOW establishes a baseline for objectives from which you can derive associated fees, costs, and resources. It also removes as much uncertainty as possible during the process of a given project. Lastly, it creates accountability and measurable efficiency for both the agency and client.
As an independent contractor or freelancer, setting rates is an important part of project work, and is generally determined by the SOW or anticipated SOW. Therefore, the contractor or freelancer should remember the following when it comes to SOWs and his or her pay:
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.
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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