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Statement of Work

Statement of Work

In an attempt to continue to provide PMtips’ readers with various templates and descriptions of key documents that are normally part of the project management process, we would like to present this article with additional information on the always-critical Statement of Work (SOW) document. Moreover, download the free Statement of Work template at the bottom of the page.  

The short article that follows presents more information on SOW as described by Carl Pritchard in his book “The Project Management Communications Toolkit”. Mr. Pritchard provides a discussion of the purpose and uses – from his point of view – of the SOW as well as a sample layout of the document.

The Statement of Work

Purpose

The statement of work serves as a guideline of the agreements on performance between a purchasing organization and a seller of goods and/or services. It is frequently an attachment to a contract or a memorandum of understanding between two organizations. The SOW affirms how the purchasing organization wants the work to be performed and the context of that performance, including any specific management practices or protocols the contractor, must follow.

But, is a Statement of Work really important?

Yes, it is one of the most critical documents in project management. It outlines everything you need to start your project correctly.

Application

The SOW is normally used as an attachment to the contract or agreement and is one of the very earliest documents developed to clarify communications between organizations. As a component of the contract, it is frequently used to settle disputes over what work should or should not be included in a project. It establishes expectations for a variety of issues in the contract relationship, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Overall project scope
  • Primary tasks and/or deliverables;
  • Costs
  • Reviews and reports
  • Testing
  • Support
  • Performance requirements
  • Period of performance
  • Payments and invoicing

Because the SOW is normally an attachment to the contract or agreement, it is a primary reference document for the project manager throughout the life of the project.

The Content

Because the SOW is most often developed by the organization requesting the project product or service, it normally reflects a functional, rather than technical, perspective. Although the customer may have technical expertise, the work they will identify in the SOW is frequently performance oriented or performance based.

An outline for a SOW might include the following sections:

  • Project Scope and Objectives
  • Description of Deliverables/Services
  • Costs
  • Reviews and Reports
  • Testing
  • Support
  • Performance Requirements
  • Period of Performance/ Schedule
  • Payment and Invoicing
  • Approaches
  • Comments

In some contracting organizations, the SOW is used as a place to incorporate any special contractual clauses that may not normally be embedded in the contract. If the organization does not normally have a “furnished property” clause or other clauses that may directly affect performance, such clauses are sometimes included here. In other organizations, clauses that are nestled deep within the contract, but which are often overlooked, are repeated here for emphasis. The purpose of the SOW is to clarify what work is to be performed by the project organization. If those clauses have direct influence over how the work will be performed, their inclusion here may be appropriate.

Some organizations use SOWs even for internal projects. In such environments, the SOW is used to emphasize the contractual nature of the relationship among the functional managers who may be responsible for the effort.

Things To Consider

Project managers frequently use the SOW as virtually the sole arbiter of how they will move forward on the project. In some organizations, the good Statement of Work is the only customer-authored documentation the project manager ever sees. The project managers may not have access to the full contract, but they almost always have access to the statement of work. As the guiding force for project performance, regardless of legal consequence, the SOW is likely to be seen by the project organization as the final determinant of what the customer wants.

Final Thoughts

Statement of Work is not a complicated document. It can definitely make your work easily, if you know how to do it. Download our FREE template to get the idea how a good SOW looks like. And, if you still have any questions, do not hesitate to post them in the comments section at the end.

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