How to Write a Project SOW (Scope of Work): 6 Key Elements to Include
Being tasked with 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 SOW is helpful to you because it will detail exactly how you 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 in a SOW. 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 laidback.
6 Key elements to include in an SOW:
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.
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.
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.
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 SOW as well as any budget tied to the project.
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.
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 SOW? Download our SOW Guide for simple, step-by-step instructions on creating your own SOW.