What is a Statement of work: definition, contents, and tips
A statement of work (SoW) is a project document that lays out project requirements, terms, timelines, contractors, etc. It’s a detailed, high-level plan that helps set expectations for budgeting, resource needs, timing, and other important factors. Statements of work are not always necessarily a contract, but the two can be combined.
The statement of work contents
Statement of work covers every aspect of the project. Such thoroughness pays off later as the project progresses and you need to solve disputes or simply need guidance on what needs to be done next and how.
Your SoW can differ, but generally there are some important sections your statement of work must have:
- High-detail description of the project
This should be a highly detailed, overarching view of what the project is. Explain what needs to be done and who will be doing it.
Laying out objectives is a big part of a SoW. Base objectives on the overall assignment purpose, the expected outcomes, and how you plan to get there. These should be well detailed, exact objectives, not vague plans. The more specific you are in your statement of work, the easier it will be to reach those objectives as you work towards them.
- Planned end results
Planned end results are technically a part of your objectives, but they’re worth noting separately, as it is always going to be a big deal for the client to know what they can expect at the end of the project. Being able to very thoroughly and expressly explain what you plan to deliver is very important for the workflow, client’s peace of mind, and the solution of any potential disputes.
- Project costs and budget
Provide detailed costs of every process outlined in the statement of work, as well as the overall budget estimates. This includes the rates and fees of any contracting companies. Note when and how the payment will be delivered.
- Timelines, deadlines, and milestones
Define all process timelines and deadlines, as well as major project milestones. This will help project managers track the progress, and defining specific milestones will help present the project plan in a comprehensive, understandable way, breaking the main schedule into separate trackable phases. Once again, the more specific you get, the better.
SoW should specify who is responsible for which part of the project or a task. This will help in disputes over results or delays.
- Quality standards
Everyone wants quality work. However, you must always define which quality of work is expected and how it will be defined. Putting in your statement of work that you have self-imposed quality standards sets a professional tone and gives you a chance to shine by meeting them. However, if the project requires an independent quality check at the end of the project, note it in the statement of work, along with who will perform the quality check, how, its costs, the time it will take, etc.
- Inside and outside scope
A statement of work always defines what the project will entail, but it is just as important to make clear what you will not be doing, or what is outside of your scope. Construction contractors are experts at this: they do the work agreed upon and nothing more, no matter what they run into, at least not until they have made a new statement of work or contract with their client. It is not a matter of being stingy or lazy, it keeps the project on task and makes sure the client is on board with paying for extra services.
- Ongoing support
For some projects, ongoing support is not necessary, but when it is, it is important to give the client a plan for how this support will be provided. Depending on your business, support could be a million different things, so create a clear outline in the SoW of what will be included in these support services, for how long, and at what price.
These are just some of the elements of the standard statement of work. It can also contain an outline of locations, testing conditions, certifications, security requirements, working hours, how the project will be accepted, and more. It is recommended to use a statement of work template to make sure you don’t forget any of the hundreds of details that can be outlined in a SoW.
How to make a statement of work official
Once you finish writing up your statement of work, you have to get it signed off by the client. This will help create the management of expectations on both sides. Having both you and the client in agreement over the statement of work, which is arguably the most detailed project document, makes for a smooth project. Upon signing you will have official authority to begin the project.
Sticking to your statement of work is not always easy and there are often roadblocks, but it is a hugely important part of working under contract with another company. Having everyone on the same page and having a well-timed plan will help prevent misunderstandings, disputes, and conflicts as the project progresses.