There’s always plenty of project management paperwork to create, get approved, file and archive. All project documents are important, but the Statement of Work (SOW) is easily one of the most important because it’s made at the outset of a project and outlines everything that needs to go into your project.
Using effective project planning tools and a thorough and well-written statement of work (SOW) will set you up to successfully lead a project over the finish line on schedule and within budget.
What Is a Statement of Work (SOW) In Project Management?
The statement of work (SOW) is a legally binding document that captures and defines all the work management aspects of your project. You’ll note the activities, deliverables and timetable for the project. It’s an extremely detailed work contract that defines the terms and conditions agreed upon between parties and lays the groundwork for the project plan.
The statement of work (SOW) is one of the first documents you’ll create to lay out the entire landscape of the project before you create a project plan and execute it. Because of the great amount of detail required, the prospect of writing one can be daunting. Let’s break it down into more digestible parts. Your statement of work will be much more detailed than your job estimate, which is a simpler document that outlines the work that’ll be performed and the costs associated with it.
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When you’re writing a statement of work, it can help to use a statement of work template because of the various aspects of the project that it must capture. Most statement-of-work templates include things such as a glossary of terms defining what you’re referencing in the SOW. There will be a place for you to write the statement of purpose as well as administrative information. If you like our statement of work template, you can also try our free project management templates to manage your projects.
Statement of Work vs. Scope of Work
While they sound the same, a statement of work isn’t a scope of work. The statement of work, as we’ve shown, is a formal document that details the goals of the project.
The scope of work is part of the larger statement of work. In it, the way the project team will deliver the outcomes laid out in the SOW is described, so the scope of work is a much shorter document.
What Does SOW Stand for In Business and Project Management?
Now that we’ve cleared the difference between a statement of work and scope of work, it’s important to note that the SOW acronym stands for statement of work, and not scope of work, which is a component of the SOW. Similarly, the terms SOW contract, SOW document and SOW agreement also refer to statements of work in project management and business.
What Is the Purpose of a Statement of Work (SOW)?
As noted, the statement of work is a detailed overview of the project scope. It’s also a way to share the project requirements, acceptance criteria and payment terms with those who are working on the project, whether they’re collaborating or are contracted to work on the project. This includes stakeholders like vendors and contractors who are bidding to work on the project.
An SOW contract is also helpful to project managers as it provides a structure on which the project plan can be built. The statement of work helps to avoid conflicts in the project. With detail and clarity, the SOW helps keep everyone that’s involved in the project on the same page and works to leave confusion to a minimum.
When building your schedule, it helps to use project management software. It can be immensely helpful for organizing your tasks and resources, as it’s critical to make an accurate schedule at this stage in the project. Project management software can also help you to create a work breakdown structure (WBS) to zoom into your project scope and identify your project’s activities, deliverables and milestones.
Types of Statement of Work
An SOW can be broken down into three main categories which can be defined as follows.
- Design/detail SOW: When you’re writing this SOW, you’re conveying to the supplier how you want the work done. What are the buyer requirements that’ll control the supplier’s process? You can use a requirements gathering template to ensure you gather them all. These project requirements can run the gamut from quality acceptance criteria and payment terms to the measurement of materials. In this SOW, it’s the buyer who’s being held responsible for the performance as he’s the one directing the project course.
- Level of effort/time and materials/unit rate SOW: This SOW agreement is an almost universal version and it can apply to most projects. It defines the level of effort as well as the materials and cost per unit. It tends to find use in short-term contracts.
- Performance-based SOW: This is the preferred SOW of project managers as it focuses on the purpose of the project, the resources and the quality level expected of the deliverables. It does not, however, explain how the work is supposed to get done. This allows a great deal of autonomy on how to get to an outcome without requiring a specific process.
Whatever type of SOW document you choose, you’ll want to use project management software to streamline the process. ProjectManager can organize the information you’re gathering in our list view. But our tool does more than make a fancy to-do list. Choose between online Gantt charts, kanban boards, project calendars and other project management views to plan, schedule and track your projects. In addition, our real-time software tracks your progress and the list shows the percentage complete for each task. You can assign work to your team, set priority, add customized tags and much more. See for yourself by taking our free 30-day trial today.
How to Write a Project Statement of Work (SOW)
A statement of work is a legally binding agreement between a client and a vendor that describes the terms and conditions for the execution of a project’s scope of work. There’s a lot of information to describe in the SOW. You can create this on your own if you want, but using project management tools to make sure nothing is left out will prove helpful. You only have one chance to create your SOW document, and you want it done right.
Here’s an overview of the steps you’ll need to follow to write your statement of work:
- Create a brief introduction for your project
- Define the purpose of your project
- Define your project scope
- Create a work breakdown structure to identify your project tasks, milestones and deliverables
- Create a project schedule for your tasks, milestones and deliverables
- Define project requirements and acceptance criteria
- Define payment terms and conditions
We’ll explore each of the SOW components involved in this process in the section below.
In terms of writing the statement of work, you’ll want to be specific with this project document. You want to clarify the terms used to make them universally understood and clearly define who’s going to do what and by what time those tasks must be completed. This avoids confusion later in the project when you can’t afford miscommunications or disputes.
Besides writing clearly, include visuals in the SOW to help focus the lens on various project aspects. Including visuals, be they charts, graphs or other illustrations to help you clarify the project, will make the SOW agreement more digestible.
After all the work you’ve done to detail the specifics of the project, you don’t want to neglect the final, crucial step — getting the work signed off. You can’t proceed if you don’t have the authority to do so. Or, more accurately, you can, but it might cost you the success of the project. Make sure that those in authority have signed off on the statement of work.
What Should Be Included in a Statement of Work (SOW)?
There are as many parts in a statement of work as there are in a project, so it’s advisable to use a project management information system to help you manage its components. If you start by focusing on the parts, you can work yourself up to the whole. For a full understanding of an SOW, first, note the major aspects of the project it addresses.
Begin with explaining what work is being done and general information about the project such as who is involved. State these parties. This will lead to a standing offer, which cements prices for products or services purchased for the project, and a more formal contract that goes into greater detail.
2. Purpose Statement
Start with the big question: why are you initiating this project? What’s the purpose of the project? Create a purpose statement to lead this section and provide a thorough answer to these questions, such as what are the project objectives, deliverables and return on investment.
3. Scope of Work
What work needs to be done in the project? Note it in the scope of work, including what hardware and software will be necessary. What’s the process you’ll use to complete the work defined in your project scope? This includes outcomes, time involved and even general steps it’ll take to achieve that. You’ll need to create a project scope statement to capture the information about your project scope.
4. Where Will the Work Be Done?
The team you employ has to work somewhere. The project might be site-specific, at a central facility or some, if not all project team members could work remotely. Regardless, here’s where you want to detail that and where the equipment and software used will be located.
Take those general steps outlined in the scope of work and break them down into more detailed tasks. Be specific and don’t leave out any action that’s required to produce deliverables and accomplish the project objectives. You can use a work breakdown structure to break the tasks down into milestones or phases.
Define the amount of time that’s scheduled to complete the project, from the start date to the proposed finish date. Detail the billable hours per week and month, and whatever else relates to the scheduling of the project. Again, specificity counts. For example, if there’s a maximum amount of billable hours for vendors and/or contracts, note it here.
Use project management software to monitor your progress and ensure you’re meeting your milestones. ProjectManager has a real-time dashboard that’s built into the tool, unlike other software that makes you build your own. We not only have a dashboard embedded but it automatically calculates and displays the metrics in easy-to-read charts and graphs. Keep up with more than milestones but also project variance, costs and more.
What are the project deliverables? List them and explain what’s due and when it’s due. Describe them in detail, such as quantity, size, color and whatever might be relevant.
Include a detailed list of when the project deliverables need to get done, beginning with which vendor will be selected to achieve this goal, the kickoff, the performance period, the review stage, development, implementation, testing, close of the project, etc.
9. Standards and Testing
If there are any industry acceptance criteria or quality standards that need to be adhered to, list those here. Also, if there will be testing of the product, list who will be involved in this acceptance testing process, what equipment is needed and other resources.
10. Define Project Success
Note what the sponsor and/or project stakeholders expect as successful project completion.
11. Project Requirements
List any other equipment that’s needed to complete the project and if there’s a necessary degree or certification required of team members. Also, note if there will be travel or other project requirements not already covered.
12. Payment Terms
If the project budget has been created, then you can list the payments related to the project and how they’ll be delivered: upfront, over time or after completion. For example, you can pay after the completion of a milestone or on a fixed schedule, whichever is more financially feasible.
There will be other parts of the project that aren’t suited to the above categories, and this is the place where you can add them so that everything is covered. For example, are there security issues, restrictions around hardware or software, travel pay, post-project support, etc?
This determines how the deliverables will be accepted, and who will deliver, review and sign off on the deliverables. It deals with the final admin duties, making sure everything is signed and closed and archived.
Statement of Work Example
We’ve been talking a lot about a statement of work, but a statement of work example can help make the subject more understandable. Let’s take a look at what a statement of work sample would look like in a real-life scenario.
Construction Statement of Work
For our statement of work example, let’s explore what one would look like in a construction project. We’re not going to go into detail, but rather sketch out a general SOW and how it would be built around the erection of a generic building.
The first thing you’ll want to do is give the project some context. That is, provide a short profile of your company. You can talk about its history, executive team, area of expertise and, especially, highlight similar construction projects. Other buildings that you built can be added here, and it’s even better if you can show that you’ve built similar structures in the past.
Now you’ll want to explain the why of the project. Why is it being built? That’s the most important question, but it’ll lead to further questions. Some of the questions you’ll want to pose and answer are what the deliverables of the project will be, certainly explain the objective of the project and what its return on investment (ROI) is. There are other questions, but those are a start.
Scope of Work
The scope of work is a summary of the project scope, or in other words, everything that has to be done in the project. You’ll want to list all of it, from drawing up plans to getting the site ready, preconstruction, building the frame, drywall, electrical and plumbing, HVAC and the rest. Not only that, you’ll want to detail the hardware and software you’ll need. Finally, don’t forget to include the outcomes, a timeline, duration, the steps you’ll take to go from start to finish, etc.
Obviously, a building exists in space. This is where you’ll name the location of the build, the equipment that you’ll need, including software, to get the site ready for construction and anything, such as scaffolding, signage, etc., you’ll need on-site to be ready to start construction and make sure it’s done safely and to code.
You’ve touched on a timeline, but now you’ll write out a project schedule. It should include all the project deliverables, start and finish dates for all the tasks, but also the team members, subcontractors, vendors, et al., who are responsible for the construction. You need to include all stages of the project, from kickoff to completion.
You’ve mentioned deliverables before in the SOW document, but now you want to list all of them and go into greater detail. This includes a description of the deliverable and its due date.
Use milestones to break up your timeline into phases. A milestone can mark the beginning or the end of a project phase. But project milestones can also indicate any major deliverable. They’re a good tool to keep stakeholders updated and track progress.
Tasks are the small pieces of work that make up the larger steps of the project scope. They’re detailed and collected within each project phase. Here’s where all the construction tasks will be outlined, from blueprints to the removal of garbage from the construction site.
It’s important to have some metrics to define success in the project. Success is, of course, defined by the project owner. But the general contractor needs to be able to measure that success and show the owner that the project is moving forward as planned.
Whatever requirements you have for the construction project are listed here. These can range from degrees required of skilled workers to certifications and code requirements.
Note the type of construction contract and how that determines payment for work rendered, such as in what installment, frequency, delivery, etc.
This statement of work sample explains how statements of work are used in project management. You can download our free statement of work template to create a similar SOW document that fits your project. In addition, we offer dozens of free project management templates you can use to plan, schedule, track and manage your projects.
SOW Related Documents
An SOW is one of many project management documents that you’ll need to manage your projects. Here are some that are closely related to a statement of work.
- Master service agreement: A contract that defines the terms that’ll govern future transactions and agreements between two parties. The master service agreement includes basic terms and conditions that can be waived in future legal agreements. Use a master service agreement to start a relationship with a client or vendor, and then use an SOW document for each project.
- Project charter: A project charter provides an overview of your project. It includes things like the project objectives, stakeholders, goals and project scope, among others. It’s a very helpful document to help you write your SOW.
- Work breakdown structure: A work breakdown structure it’s a project management tool that allows project managers to break down the project scope into tasks, deliverables, milestones and project phases. It’s a visual representation of all the work needed for a project.
- Request for proposal: A request for proposal (RFP) is used to seek out vendors and contractors that can supply a project with products and services. The RFP provides a project overview to give the bidding parties a clear description of what is needed from them. Once the client chooses a vendor, the next step is to give them a statement of work with more detailed information about the scope of work.
ProjectManager Can Improve Your Statement of Work
ProjectManager has a suite of project management tools that can help you put together a statement of work (SOW) that accurately depicts the forthcoming project. For starters, you can use our Gantt to start listing the tasks you can think of for the project.
Plan and Schedule Project Tasks With Gantt Charts
The online Gantt has the basics of a visual timeline and the ability to link dependencies to avoid bottlenecks and set milestones. Assign costs to tasks and see your planned costs for the project or specific phases. But you can use the sheet view to only see the grid, filter the critical path to know what tasks can be skipped if necessary and set the baseline once your schedule and budget are done. That means you’ll be able to track in real time whether you’re staying on track and under budget. ProjectManager has the tools you want and delivers more functionality than the competition.
As you can see, using our Gantt chart software can go a long way to making an accurate statement of work for your project. Accuracy means a lot to stakeholders when it comes time to deliver on the work that you scoped out.
Keep Track of Progress, Costs and Schedules With Real-Time Dashboards
ProjectManager’s project dashboard tracks progress, costs and workload in real time so you can monitor the execution of your statement of work and quickly determine whether your project team is delivering tasks on time and on budget. In addition, Gantt charts and kanban boards have built-in risk and resource management features for better project tracking.
The statement of work is a foundational document of any project. Once created and approved, you’ll have to create a plan and implement it. That’s where ProjectManager comes in. Our online project management software provides real-time data to help you manage and track your statement of work. Take it for a test spin and see how it can help you with this 30-day free trial.