6 Things to Include in a Project SOW

By MBO Partners | May 18, 2024

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Key Points

A project Scope of Work details how to execute a project through specific tasks, activities, deliverables, and timelines.

A timeline should outline major project dates from start to finish, including specific tasks, activities, and deliverables and the dates they should be completed.

Make sure to detail your individual roles so that everyone involved is held accountable in the project.

Writing and delivering a Scope of Work (SOW) can at first seem like a daunting task. However, once you understand what goes into the various parts of the document, it becomes much more manageable and can be a useful tool to help you get organized before a project begins.

A project Scope of Work is helpful to you because it will detail exactly how to plan to execute a project through specific tasks, activities, deliverables, and timelines. It is also a useful document for your client because it communicates project goals and outlines expected results before you begin work.

A well-written and detailed SOW is a great way to establish a solid relationship with your client from the start and can help avoid future misunderstandings. Below are six common components that should be included. Keep in mind that SOWs will vary by industry. Government clients, for example, may have a very specific set of requirements whereas clients from other industries may be a bit more laid back.

1. A Project Timeline

Your timeline should outline major project dates from start to finish. Include specific tasks, activities, and deliverables and the dates they should be completed. Note when a specific task will start, how long it will last, and who it will be delivered to. Include additional details for big milestones, and don’t overlook higher-level dates such as when the overall project will start and end.

Check out: How to Negotiate a Consulting Contract: 5 Steps

2. Specific Goals

Talk to your client about their goals for the project. The more specific they can be, the better. Then, include a clear definition of outcomes or results that describe what they expect to receive.

3. Processes and Procedures

In this section, discuss the work that is going to be done. Outline what you are responsible for and what your client is responsible for. Detailing your individual roles will help hold everyone involved in the project accountable. Also, be sure to include a process for change orders. It’s not uncommon for client needs to unexpectedly change during the middle of a project. Having an agreed-upon process for scope change along with associated fees will help to guide difficult conversations and prevent further delays.

Learn more: Scope Creep: Definition, Causes and How to Prevent It

4. Payment Terms

Before starting work on any project, it is important to discuss payment and payment terms with your client. Will payments be tied to specific milestones or tasks? Will you be paid once the project is complete? If so, what are those payment terms? Once you have these details, list them in your project Scope of Work as well as any budget tied to the project.

5. Deliverable Format and Dates

Talk with your client about how they want each part of the project to be delivered. Is the final output physical, digital, or both? If you are delivering different parts of the project in phases, what does your client expect to receive at each phase? In your SOW, clearly identify what you will be creating and delivering.

Up next: 4 Ways to Create Long Term Value for Your Clients

6. Desired Results and How They Will Be Measured

Lastly, you’ll want to include details around performance measurement. Talk with your client about what success means to them and craft specific measurements that can be used to define success. With defined metrics in hand, you can more easily demonstrate to a client how you’ve delivered value and met goals.

Looking for more tips on how to write a great project Scope of Work? Download our SOW Guide for simple, step-by-step instructions on creating your own.

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