Pin Me

Importance of Statement of Work Docs in Project Management

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/3/2011

By reaching consensus on a statement of work at the start of a project, stakeholders can prevent vendors from running away with a blank checkbook. Meanwhile, project participants enjoy the ability to focus on key tasks with strong backing from project leaders.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Ways an SOW Can Help

    What Is It?

    Some companies use a statement of work to maintain compliance with union guidelines or with contractual boundaries. In certain industries, a statement of work can be used to help manage the flow of goods and services across borders. However, regardless of the type of project or contract, a statement of work is a written agreement that specifies the end result sought by all parties, along with a detailed description of the resources required to finish the job. Click here to learn more about the basics of a Statement of Work.

    Importance of an SOW

    A statement of work sets the ground rules for all parties involved in a project, especially when third-party vendors become involved. The “SOW" becomes especially important during the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation phases of the project cycle. Stakeholders who feel that a project has derailed can consult the original statement of work in order to help refocus their team members and vendors. Likewise, employees and vendors can use the SOW to remind stakeholders of the original scope of a project, especially in situations where “feature creep" has started to drain team resources. Most importantly, freelancers and other vendors frequently refer to statements of work to resolve disputes over billing and copyright.

    How to Write One

    It’s impossible to accurately predict the exact amount of time and resources necessary to complete a project. However, a statement of work can be crafted in such a way that it supports flexibility and evolution for both the project and the team’s participants. At the very least, a SOW should contain statements of purpose and scope: detailed descriptions of the desired end result and the resources deemed necessary for completion. A list of deliverables, in as great detail as possible, should outline specific outcomes and projected deadlines. Cost and budget statements should reflect the agreed price of the project, any contingency plans, and penalties for failing to reach specific milestones. A strong statement of work should also address any known constraints or assumptions, while setting up a specific chain of responsibility for project elements.

    In project management settings, a statement of work provides a baseline level of commitment for all parties involved in a project. Certain teams prefer to reflect upon a statement of work to guide decisions about potential changes or staffing issues. Should a project evolve beyond the original statement of work, stakeholders can be called back to the bargaining table to either recommit to the core SOW or to agree upon amendments.

    Website Design Statement of Work

    Web developers and designers, like other creative professionals, should complete a statement of work and obtain signatures from all stakeholders before starting any project. Like any creative project, website design often involves subjective decisions about what constitutes a completed task. A solid statement of work can set boundaries for revisions and additions, based on stakeholder feedback. This way, prospective clients of website design professionals can feel comfortable about providing actionable feedback to developers. Likewise, designers can assure themselves of getting paid for projects when clients dispute the final outcome.