Whenever you draw up a contract with your customer or vendor, regardless of the industry you work in, the Scope of Work (or Statement of Work) agreement helps you clearly define what you can expect out of the contract. The Scope of Work (SOW) is a formal document that describes the work activities, deliverables, timelines and milestones, pricing, quality requirements and governance terms and conditions etc. Whether you are a software project manager, a marketing professional or a government executive, you would be necessarily dealing with the external world for project contracts, vendor selection, sales and support, customer service and many other activities. The SOW gives both the vendor and the customer, a clear picture on the complete project requirements so that both parties are on the same page. You may even want to take this course to get a basic Project Management Professional certification, so that you are well equipped to define all aspects of the project correctly.
What is Scope of Work?
The Scope of Work (SOW) is a formal agreement document that specifies all the criteria of a contract between a service provider (vendor) and the customer. It clearly documents the project requirements, milestones, deliverables, end products, documents and reports that are expected to be provided by the vendor. It helps in the smooth functioning of a project/work contract wherein both parties can avoid ambiguities and situations leading to dispute. It is the first step to building a mutually beneficial collaboration between a vendor and his customer. If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, you may want to take this course on developing customer relations.
Components of Scope of Work (SOW)
A standard Scope of Work document contains the following elements:
- Objectives /Purpose Statement
- Scope of Work
- Key Assumptions
Challenges Faced in Creating a Good SOW
You might have faced messy situations in a project when the client’s requirements changed unexpectedly and you didn’t have a fall-back plan, just because the deliverables weren’t mentioned clearly on the SOW. Well, this is where the importance of spending quality time on writing the Scope of Work comes into play. What are the key challenges that you may face while writing the SOW and how can you overcome them? We will discuss some of the major issues here:
- Complex in Nature – Every contract is unique in nature and therefor the SOW’s pertaining to them will have to be written accordingly. This involves a complete understanding of the project requirements, the type of work involved, duration and other criteria so that an efficient contract can be established. Many a times, we fail to give attention to details and draw up a lousy scope of work document just to complete the formalities and get the project started.
- Risks Involved – The SOW is the backbone of the project depending on which the project is carried out smoothly. However, there are many risks involved such as financial implications, penalties, legal risks, violation of agreement, risk to organization’s reputation etc. that can spruce up because of a poorly written scope of work.
- Need for Expertise – The scope of work needs to be written by quality document writers, who also have in-depth knowledge of the processes, operations and financial requirements of the project. Sometimes companies fall short in providing such competent resources.
- Considerable Time – This is one of the most serious challenges. Companies just don’t want to spend time in charting out a good agreement and want to jump right ahead into beginning the project.
Normally the sales teams, project managers and other key executives in your organizations do not give utmost attention to the Scope of Work document. Either they don’t have sufficient time on their hands or just plain careless when it comes to writing the Scope of Work document. This course will help you understand how to build better sales and customer relationships. This will help you formulate a good scope of work document by overcoming these challenges. With a little bit of planning, formation of basic rules and by strictly adhering to them, you can drive your employees and colleagues to develop strong SOWs.
Guidelines to Write a Good Scope of Work
A good scope of work enables your organization to get the maximum out of a contract, helps you establish good customer relations and earns you better respect in today’s market. It enhances your credibility and reflects your professional approach towards conducting business. Here are a few guidelines to help you write a good SOW:
- Start by spending time on understanding client requirements, change management procedures, escalation process, payment methods etc.
- Share the information with team members, discuss and formulate the document giving attention to the minute details.
- Describe each and every functionality and process thoroughly, even if it involves lot of time and resources.
- State assumptions clearly, define the governance structure and give complete outline of the project management procedures.
- Be SMART in setting the objectives and set realistic timelines.
- Mention warranty terms, maintenance agreement, service levels and other important terms and conditions.
- Adopt simple and straight-forward language that’s not only easy to understand but also eliminates ambiguities
Of course, the general principles of good business writing apply here as well. You have to be concise, and precise. This course will give you a good overview of how to write effective business documents.
Scope of Work Example
We have talked about the elements, challenges and guidelines to writing a good scope of work. Now, let’s look at an example and try to further understand the various components of a SOW. Say, you have to enter into an agreement with your client to deliver a mobile application within a certain time frame and budget. This is how you will proceed with the Scope of Work document:
- Purpose Statement / Objective – Company ABC will provide end-to-end mobile application development services to Client XYZ in a collaborative environment to meet the business objectives of Client XYZ. The application should be interactive, easy to use and meet the marketing requirements of Client XYZ.
- Scope of Work – Company ABC will gather the requirements, analyse, design, develop, implement, test and integrate the application according to the guidelines and schedules stated in the SOW. Provide a detailed list of deliverables, processes involved, end products, review and approval process etc.
- Schedule – Company ABC will deliver the project to Client XYZ by so and so date, providing weekly status reports and project updates. Define the task / project start and finish dates, timelines for different phases of the project and the various milestones.
- Price – It should clearly define the project cost for developing the application, resource expenses, overheads, pricing assumptions based on fixed-fee or time and materials project, payment terms and schedule etc. You may want to take this course to get a basic understanding of financial terms.
- Key Assumptions – This must define the conditions on which the project depends. For example, in this case, one assumption could be ‘Delays in UX design approval from client XYZ will lead to project kick-off delays’ etc.
- Acceptance – This must clearly outline the inspection requirements, testing and validation processes, approval process, client sign-offs and acceptance.
Once you have prepared the Scope of Work document, ensure to review it and see to it that you are not over-committing in any aspect. Make sure that you can deliver all the objectives as per the scope and schedule, within the estimated budget.
In short, the Scope of Work document lays the foundation to your project success. Each section of the document calls for great attention and must be prepared, keeping the facts and requirements in mind. It is a reflection of your organizational values, capability and professionalism. So, the next time you prepare a contract, keep these guidelines in mind to achieve your business objectives with increased customer satisfaction.