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What Exactly Is a Scope of Work?

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Very simply, a Scope of Work is a very important document that acts as an agreement with a client on the work your organization will perform on a given project. In project management, a Scope of Work must include essential elements, such as:

Deliverables: This is what your project delivers. Whether it’s a product or a service, it’s the reason you’re executing the project for your customer, stakeholder or sponsor. Deliverables should clearly identify the expected output. It should also include the technical specifications of the deliverables, though the level of detail will depend on the complexity of the project.  Creating a work breakdown structure can help.

Define Resources and Budget: How much in terms of resources is needed to achieve your objectives with this project? A critical part of your scope of work involves defining how much it all will cost and what is the budget your company has set aside for it. The budget of a project should be enough for it to be concluded successfully within the planned characteristics. It also means making sure that the right resources are spent on the appropriate areas of your project.

Timeline: This consists of a thorough project scope statement and a detailed work breakdown structure to ensure that all of the required work is defined and accounted for. After identifying dependencies and milestones, you’ll be ready to select a project timeline template.

Milestones: This is the section of the document that delineates the major phases across the schedule of the project’s duration. It should also mark the points in the project when your deliverables are ready. It’s a way to help you monitor the progress of the project to make sure it’s adhering to your planned schedule. 

Reports: They’re a formal record of the progress of your project, but they’re also a means of communication beyond whether the project’s on schedule or not. Of course, there is a lot of leeway here in how reports are organized and released due to the vast differing types of data from project to project. However, the key point here is to define how and when you’ll be reporting on the project to stakeholders.

Writing Tips

Yet, having all the correct elements in a Scope of Work fulfills only half the equation. It doesn’t do much good to include all the necessary parts if the writing itself is substandard.

Here are a few common situations you want to be aware of:

  • Too vague – When the descriptions in the Scope of Work are incomplete, it affects the integrity of the project. There are problems with coordinating responsibilities during construction, which in turn leads to defective work and disputes over quality. In some cases, litigation may be required to resolve the situation, which delays the project further and even permanently.
  • Ambiguity – Be VERY clear. When the Scope of Work is even slightly ambiguous, it can cause the different parties involved in the project to interpret the plans and specifications differently, especially if they are contradictory to one another. Also be clear on what the project doesn’t include.
  • Writing should be customer driven – Problems often arise when internal departments add additional requirements that do not add value to the customer. Creating a Scope of Work for outsourced resources should be driven with the primary focus of the customer.
  • Errors in copy and incorrect references – This is a big one. Be sure to proofread. Poor spelling or grammatical usage does not produce profits. Also, when proofreading and coming across a reference, be sure to identify the document in a zip file that will be sent to selected suppliers.

Big time tip: Bring in other people to help: If you don’t have the expertise to write certain sections, ask for help. This might mean bringing in a technical writer if you’re unsure of how to exactly express the requirements and infrastructure.

SOW versus SOW

Unfortunately, SOW is the same abbreviation for both Scope of Work and Statement of Work. And while they usually appear in tangent, they are not the same.

A Statement of Work (SOW) is a legal document that describes what needs to be done to successfully complete a project. Scope of Work (SOW) is a section in the Statement of Work that outlines how these goals will be accomplished.

A project proposal is another term that gets confused with the two SOWs. A project proposal is a 2-5 page document that seeks to address key questions surrounding major internal projects, rather than external ones – like SOWs.

Tonex SOW Courses

Tonex offers several SOW courses, such as:

Scope Training Workshop (2 days)

SOW Writing Workshop (1 day)

SOW Writing Training (2 days)

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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