How to write a Project Statement of Work SOW. A step-by-step guide

Every project is different, but they all hold something in common, they all need the order to move forward successfully, and this includes the project statement of work (SOW). This concept might be new to you; in this blog, you will find out everything you need to know about SOW and how to apply it in your projects.

What is SOW, Project Statement of Work?

A statement of work is a document in which the work and management aspects for a particular project or service are specified. This document is typically used in conjunction with a contract that outlines the expectations and deliverables for both parties involved in the project.

A well-defined statement of work reduces the risk of misunderstanding or miscommunication. It also provides important points that will help both the customer and the contractor establish a legal and formal agreement, based upon realistic outcomes and expectations from both parties, should they decide to work together.

Benefits of using a statement of work

A few benefits of using an SOW over alternatives include:

  • They help speed up the planning process for, complex or large projects
  • They provide transparency into processes for the parts interested in the project.
  • They reduce any doubts and questions that may arise during a project
  • They are legally blinded, and pre-approved by the client, meaning the project is fully supported by all parties

The Components of an SOW

An effective SOW includes tasks, deliverables, schedule, coordination requirements, resources provided, expected outcomes, terms, work details, and closure. Here´s a closer explanation of each of the components:

  • Tasks: The most foundational part of a Statement of Work is the tasks that the vendor is to perform. Usually, the tasks are listed as individual items to make sure there is comprehension.
  • Deliverables: A deliverable is anything that must be ‘delivered’ to the client, customer, or owner. This can be a tangible item, or it can also be a service, for example, a training course. Every project has deliverables that are produced for its stakeholders, and when a subcontractor is selected for a portion of the project, they have their own deliverables to the project. It is important to note that these deliverables must be specified in the statement of work.
  • Schedule: Since a project is defined as a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end, the timing of that endpoint is usually a major consideration in project success. These deadlines should align with key deliverables for your company and its partners or customers (i.e., set deadlines that correspond with their due dates). It is important that any associated costs be considered as well when deciding on deadlines.

Since this is a very important item, specifying due dates and milestones is a good idea within the statement of work.

  • Coordination Requirements: the tasks and deliverables define the work that must be completed; there are often other stakeholders or third parties that must be coordinated with or kept informed. Specifying these coordination requirements within the Statement of Work ensures that there are no bottlenecks in performing the work.
  • Resources provided: Often the project must provide resources to the contractors to enable them to perform the work. This can include data, equipment, or facilities.
  • Work Details: To create the document, you should start by answering the following questions about your project: Who is your target audience? What is the goal of this project? What does success look like?
  • Expected Outcomes: This is your and your client’s definition of what success will look like when the project is delivered.
  • Terms: Here you will specify payment terms and other parts of the project that do not fit in the above categories.
  • Closure: This will determine how the deliverables will be accepted, and who will deliver, review, and sign off on the deliverables. Also, it deals with the final admin duties, making sure everything is signed and closed, and archived.

Steps for successfully creating an SOW

  1. Define the problem that needs to be solved and for whom the solution is being created.
  2. Do your research and understand all aspects of the problem.
  3. Outline the proposed solution in detail.
  4. Describe how you will measure success and what criteria will be used to determine whether the project was successful.
  5. Make sure to get sign-off from all stakeholders before proceeding with the project.
  6. Initiate the project and set a deadline for deliverables.
  7. Allocate key resources with attention to capacity limits, availability, and schedules.

Clarity and detail are essential to an effective SOW and as you are writing one there are 5 must-haves you should make sure it includes:

  • Explicit details: Include everything, this means include assumptions on effort, time, and resources.
  • Visualizations: A better way to explain your goals and needs is by including pictures, and examples for better reference.
  • Definitions for any terminology: If there are any business terms, phrases, or acronyms in your SOW, make sure they are defined to reduce misunderstandings.
  • Time for reviews: Make sure your project schedule and deliverable timeline has space in it for reviews and unexpected changes in priorities.
  • Success definitions: Both parties being aligned with what success looks like is one of the most important aspects of an effective SOW.

SOW is a powerful tool to keep everyone in a project accountable for a task. It all might seem like a heavy charge of work to do, but the clearer you make it, the easier the rest of the project will be.

  • Keep it brief: Explicit details are important, as mentioned before, but don´t go overboard. Writing a 30+ page SOW will mean that your contractor will spend valuable time going through it line-by-line making the whole process slow and affecting the cost. The crazier the exclusions, clauses, and exceptions you write, the more time it is going to take them and the more concerned they are going to be.
  • Write in the earlier stages of a project: The sooner the better. It is never too early to start writing an SOW. Starting early actually means that the document will evolve at the same time the project, your understanding, and your needs are.
  • Bring in other people to help: It is not a crime to ask for help. If you do not have the expertise to write certain sections, ask for help. Even technical writers can be great allies to express the requirements and infrastructure in your SOW.
  • Be clear about what the project doesn´t include: Especially in agile software development, requirements might be vague, so you need to be clear about what paths not to take as much as which ones to go down.

For full transparency and understanding between the agency, team members, and the client, everybody should know what is agreed upon in the SOW, which must be a collaborative effort as the SOW is a means of understanding.

Remember it defines the project, including the mission, the scope, basic requirements, a thorough outline of tasks to be completed, start and end dates, critical resources needed, milestones and timeline, terms, and most importantly a signature from both parties.

Creating a good statement of work should be of interest to both parties, the professional service business, and the client. For the service provider, it helps avoid risks of working more than agreed on, and for the client, it provides comfort in knowing what is going to be handed over to them at the end. So, it is a win-win. For more information, please get in touch with us at  

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