How to Write a Statement of Work: What to Include and How to Get Started

How to Write a Statement of Work: What to Include and How to Get Started
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By Definition

A statement of work, often abbreviated as an SOW, must be drafted by a company for each project. It is designed and written to give concise and certain direction for a project. A project manager and his team should follow it closely in order to achieve project success. The statement of work explains the rules and regulations for the project itself. Mandatory goals are established (usually at the top of a statement of work). Any limitations that are to be adhered to are also specified in the statement of work.

A statement of work should list what will constitute project success. Anything less than this is usually considered project failure. Some SOWs provide very clear lists of that success criteria, and the minority of others give a more flexible definition to a project’s end. This statement also gives directions and guidance to the project manager himself.

Other Inclusions

A statement of work is a precise document, but it’s not necessarily simplistic. It needs to include all of the criteria stated above, but it should also give estimates that have been well-researched regarding the budget project. Projected expenditures and available capital should be detailed. Resources needed for a project need to be included as well.

Getting Down to the Writing

Before a statement of work can be drafted, much research must be done. Past projects must be looked at in order to draw a fair comparison. Experts in the field should be consulted to get an unbiased, objective and accurate estimate on how much the project will cost and how long it will take. While some companies opt to only look at past data within the company, a new project may be something entirely different. To look at an old project that lacked the complexities of a new one can leave the project manager at a disadvantage if she’s expected to live up to the expectations on a smaller or more simple project.

Once the research has been done, the writer of the statement of work needs to clarify and explain the exact definition of the project. He needs to state exactly what should happen step by step in order for the project to be seen as a success. He then has to go over all the fair rules to place upon a project manager. If the writer of the statement of work has not worked in the roles that he is assigning, it’s imperative that he speak to those who have and perform thorough research. An inefficient statement of work can mess up a company’s plan for the project. A badly written statement of work can make a project management team look unfairly bad when unachievable demands have been set, or it can make an inefficient team look as though they worked wonders when a goal was exceeded due to setting the bar low.