How to Write a Scope of Work - A Practical Guide

How to Write a Scope of Work - A Practical Guide
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What to Include in a Scope of Work

A scope of work is like THE RULE BOOK of a project. Irrespective of the kind of project or the size and duration of a project’s life cycle, every business project requires a scope statement or scope of work. It is not an easy task outlining a scope of work (SOW) as there are many variables that influence a project, many deliverables to carry out, and many projected expectations to accomplish. A project manager is ideally situated to draft out the SOW statement, and hence the art of writing one for a project is one of the essential skills project managers should master.

Writing a Scope of Work

Every project manager should know how to write a scope of work for a project. Since it is the main official document that initiates the start of the project and guides it along its different phases, it should outline features such as deliverables, resources, projections, manpower, cost and schedule. Mixing and matching all these factors in their right proportions can be a task and hence it should be done in a sequenced, orderly and precisely clear manner.

Below are common components of a SOW: 

Objectives: What are the objectives of the project? Why is a project initiated in the first place? Is it some new, innovative idea that might grab the market and be a total profit for the organization? Does it have some potential financial gain? Is it a collaborative idea of many stakeholders for some common goal? Answers to these questions highlight the reason for launching the project and defining the end results. As in the above image, the scope of work highlights the construction of a Mall to accommodate 20 stores of 20,000 square feet each. The objective or goal of the project is clear. It states exactly what it wants to achieve.

Deliverables: Deliverables are defined as the results that have to be accomplished as a result of work packages, or at the end of each phase, or the end of the project. Again, as in the above image as an example, each store resulting in being 20,000 square feet is a deliverable to be accomplished. Perhaps after each phase, either the flooring has to be a certain result, or the tiling has to be a certain percent complete. The roofing might be part of a certain phase’s deliverables to be achieved.

Learn how to create a scope of work A detailed scope of work will help keep your project on schedule

Criteria/Variables: Cost, schedule, resources, manpower and technology are the limiting factors in a project along every phase and hence each has a set target to achieve, i.e. not exceeding the stipulated target for each criteria and also delivering maximum output for each respectively. All these criteria are clearly defined with inclusions and exclusions as limits. Each criteria are further supported by independent documents such as an IRR-project feasibility report for example.

Tasks/Work: Every step of the project has to be defined in terms of work that has to be done. Work that has to be done is hence decomposed into many clear, precise and doable packages known as a work package and collectively forming the work breakdown structure. Every form of work that has to be done is included in the WBS which is an extension of the scope of work. Anything not part of the WBS is outside the scope of the project.

Inclusions: A project’s scope has to highlight all the essential work that has to be done. Everything that is mentioned as part of the project is termed as an inclusion. It may be categorized into different categories and subcategories.

Exclusions: Anything that is not mentioned in the scope statement is outside the scope of the project and should not be done. However, there are certain clauses or conditions that may be mentioned in the project for things that should not be done. These clauses are termed as exclusions. For example, as in the attached image, a clause may be mentioned that no work is to be done during rainy weather. Irrespective of whether the work can be done of not, no work may be done which may be part of the criteria of the sponsor’s wish and subjective. Another case may be in compliance with human resource management strategies that when a certain number of workers are employed, irrespective of the delay of the project against schedule, no additional workers may be employed beyond this number. Things that are specifically mentioned as ‘not to be done’ in a project are termed exclusions.

When all these factors are assembled together a scope statement is produced. Hence we can define a scope of work or a scope statement of work as an official document outlining the project’s objectives, deliverables, work, inclusions and exclusions. Once all these factors are clearly understood and translated into writing, the project can proceed to the next step.

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