What is a statement of work (SoW)?
A Statement of Work (or SoW) is an important project management tool that outlines a project's work requirements. It touches on timelines, project-specific services & activities, deliverables, and budgetary information. A SoW is one of the first documents exchanged between company and client and acts as an informal work contract.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about SoWs, even how to create one that is effective and clear.
Why are SoWs important?
Using a SoW for your project is beneficial for many reasons. They help teams get organized, increase the quality of communication between all parties involved in a project, inform other parts of your project planning process, and even save you time and resources.
Nevertheless, the most important benefit that SoWs offer is the transparency they ensure between clients and companies. Both of these parties being happy is the essential foundation to any successful project, and a great statement of work is key to making that happen.
The statement of work ensures that all key parties involved in a project know exactly what's included within the bounds of a project and what isn't. This represents a step ahead of a project proposal and sets clear expectations for project deliverables, expected outcomes, communications, and timelines on both sides. It also helps avoid scope creep, which is music to any project manager's ears.
The difference between a statement of work, a scope of work & a project plan
Statements of work, scopes of work, and project plans are often talked about together but are not quite the same. In order to write a great statement of work, it's essential to know the differences between these important documents.
Statement of work
As discussed, statements of work are detailed documents that lay out all the different elements of projects. They include multiple sections on things like deliverables, payments, tasks, objectives, and timelines and are agreed upon by companies and clients.
Scope of work
Statement of work and scope of work are sometimes used interchangeably and are both confusingly abbreviated as SoW (for the purposes of this article, it will refer to a statement of work). However, they are a little bit different. A scope of work is a section within a statement of work. It serves an extremely important purpose because it defines what work is included within the scope of your project and what isn't. This is key for both the company and the client as it defines exactly what should be expected by both parties within the framework of your project.
Project plans also get thrown into the mix when talking about statements of work and scopes of work. This is because both elements are normally included within project plans. Project plans are go-to documents for entire projects. They give clear and comprehensive outlines of all the different aspects of projects throughout their entire lifecycle.
SoWs are usually written before project plans, so they're often useful in laying the groundwork for a project plan. In addition, both documents are usually written (or at least led) by the project manager.
Who puts statements of work together?
Like most project management documents, SoWs are best written collaboratively. However, there are two main parties involved: the client or service provider and the company. SoWs need to be approved by two parties before work on your project really begins.
From the client or service provider's side, SoWs are usually drafted by project managers.
They're usually the first formal documentation that a company will receive, so it's important that they're well done and make a good impression. Project managers will often assign different parts of their statement of work to different team members depending on the situation. This is ideal as it makes for a more collaborative and thorough document.
From the company's side, SoWs will likely be reviewed and signed off on by multiple high-level staff members.
However, there will usually be one contact who's most involved in the project and takes on a leadership role throughout the project's period of performance.
When is the best time to write a Statement of Work?
As previously mentioned, the SoW is a document that comes at the very beginning of a project. It's usually one of the first official documents of a project. It comes after you've had an initial meeting with a company, have discussed some project details, and perhaps even decided on a quote.
However, it's worthwhile to keep in mind that SoWs include a fair amount of detail. Owing to this, you'll need to make sure that you discuss all the elements that will go into your SoW with the company you're planning to work with before you start writing it. You may need to schedule a meeting for this purpose.
It's advisable to draft, write, finalize, and send off your statement of work to the company you're working with as soon as you can. It will lay the foundation for a lot of other project documentation in the future, so get it out of the way early on.
What are the key elements of a Statement of Work (SoW)?
The contents of your statement of work are flexible depending on your project needs. All you need to do is ensure that you include all the elements that you need to reflect the different aspects of your project. Some common inclusions include:
- Basic information about your project like project name, current date, projected completion date, project manager, high-level team members, key service providers, and client names.
- A brief introduction or project outline that describes your project context and approach, and establishes who will be working on it.
- Relevant project background information.
- A purpose statement that describes the purpose of the project and outlines why it's interesting, necessary, or useful.
- A scope of work. This is especially key because it helps avoid the dreaded scope creep.
- A timeline that encompasses key deliverables, milestones, project objectives, due dates, and projected end dates. This is sometimes stylized as a period of performance section. It also sometimes includes references to payment scheduling.
- A task breakdown, work breakdown or work breakdown structure (WBS).
- Project budget, payment terms, or other financial information. This can also include details about scheduling and resources.
- Any special requirements, resources, or specific terms and conditions.
- General communication criteria and expectations.
- Criteria for modifications of the statement of work (it's best to account for this before it happens).
- Project closure protocols that describe the framework of how it will ultimately be concluded, as well as expected outcomes.
- SoW acceptance criteria & authorization documents.
Slite's free statement of work (SoW) template
Getting started on a statement of work can be intimidating, especially if you don't have much experience writing them or are kicking off a particularly high stakes project. Above all, you want to ensure that you produce a clear, high-quality piece of documentation that isn't missing any key elements or deliverables.
Lucky for you, Slite's here to help you develop the perfect SoW for your project needs. Our statement of work template is free and perfect for collaborative teams to work on together. It's also easy to customize by integrating any elements you might require, including videos, images, tables, document links, and more.
Here at Slite, we're passionate about helping project teams work together to their best capacity. Whether you need to start work on a SoW right now or will do sometime in the near future, be sure to take advantage of our template. Once you have created your SoW, you can proceed to write a project charter and share it with the stakeholders.
Our top tips for writing an excellent Statement of Work
Develop it collaboratively
As discussed, the best SoWs are developed together. If you're a project manager, don't make the mistake of trying to write the entire document yourself. While you might be capable, you won't produce the best result.
If you truly want to produce an excellent SoW, be sure to harness the power of your whole project team. For example, if a specific team member or sub-committee is working on the project scope, make sure they define the scope for the purposes of your SoW as well. This will ensure consistency and accuracy in your SoW, and also make sure that all the work doesn't fall on one person's shoulders.
Make use of templates to help you get started
Let's face it, beginning work on a SoW is intimidating. It sets the stage for your entire project, so you want to be sure that you don't miss any tasks and deliverables or misrepresent anything. It's also usually the first formal document that's exchanged between company and client, and can even act as a contract management tool by laying the groundwork for a master service agreement or contract where applicable.
In order to give yourself a break when getting started, use a statement of work template. It'll give you some guidance, provide you with direction, and even present you with a format to build off of.
Strike the right balance between specific and open-ended
If you ask us, one of the most difficult parts of writing a great SoW is striking the right balance between detail and length. Because your SoW may be included as part of a large piece of documentation (like a project plan), it's a good idea to keep it as concise as you can. A few pages is ideal when possible.
However, as you probably noticed in our SoW elements section, there's a lot to cover in a statement of work. You'll need to include a relatively high degree of description and details about the products or services in development. Owing to this, writing a concise SoW should not sacrifice the inclusion of any key details or information relating to your project.
Use clear, concise language
In the vast majority of cases, a large number of people will read your SoW. Complex projects involve teams of important people with expertise in different areas, and many of them will likely be charged with reviewing and signing off on your SoW.
Owing to this, make sure that your write clearly and concisely in your SoW. Use language that you know a variety of people from different industries would be able to understand. Otherwise, it looks like your documentation is confusingly written and lacks accessibility.
Account for future modifications
Projects are dynamic; they go through many different phases, evolutions, and project requirements before they're ultimately concluded. You can almost guarantee that the first version of your SoW will not be the last, no matter the amount of time you put into its development (yet another benefit of using a software to help you write it).
In order to face this challenge before it comes up, take the time to establish criteria for the modification of your SoW with your client. This will protect you against miscommunications in the future and make sure everyone's on the same page regarding work requirements.
Remember to review & edit
Last but not least, a SoW is a kind of informal contract. Owing to this, one of your most important tasks in writing it is to make sure that your finished version is immaculate. That means that it should reflect the most up-to-date version of high-quality information and be free of any spelling or formatting errors (this can change depending on industry standards). Be sure to get multiple different pairs of eyes to review and edit your SoW.
You're ready to get going on your statement of work
Whether you're about to start writing a statement of work (SoW) or have one coming down the pipe in the future, we hope that this guide has helped steer you in the right direction. Remember that you can use a statement of work in a number of different ways to benefit your professional team and ensure that you'll produce a successful project when everything's said and done. The work involved in writing your SoW at the outset will be well worthwhile down the road.
Be sure to keep this guide handy to refer back to at any time and get started with a statement of work template when you're ready to go. Happy writing!
Why use a software to help you develop your Statement of Work?
There are many ways all the various project management software out there can help you put together your statement of work. This is because they:
Your team is likely made up of a variety of different people who will support your work in different ways. They without a doubt all have individual strengths and weaknesses that will help complete your project. Because a team will be working your project throughout its lifecycle, a team should be involved in the development of your statement of work.
Software like Slite make it easy to create documents collaboratively.
When writing a SoW, it's optimal to have your information and documentation stored in a specialized, secure space that can be easily accessed and worked on by team members at any time.
This is particularly key for remote teams or project teams with members living in different time zones, but is also beneficial even if you meet face-to-face with your colleagues regularly. Regardless of where you're located, using a collaboration-friendly project management software saves you time and allows you to prioritize only the most essential in-person meetings.
Help you & your team get organized
When working on a project, there's always a near-endless amount of work to be done. The easiest way to ensure that all that work gets completed in a high-quality and timely manner is by making sure that your project team is organized.
Using a piece of software to help with writing a statement of work and other project documentation is key in making sure that your team is organized and your successful project will get finished according to schedule. Your documents will clearly define the different elements of your project, so team members will know what they're supposed to be working on. They'll also be able to refer back to it as a guide if they ever get off tracks.
Allow you to access other project management tools & solutions
Even the simplest projects require a wide range of documentation. The statement of work is only the tip of the iceberg. Owing to this, using a platform that can help write your SoW and other documentation can make your life much easier throughout your entire project.
Slite has a wide range of different project management tools and templates that can meet all your project needs. No matter the kind of project document you need to create, we've got something for you.
Keep your work in a central, easily-accessible place
When using a project management software, you can forget about having to send documents back and forth.
The best project management softwares allow you to keep your work stored in a central workspace online where it can be accessed from just about anywhere at any time. Your documents can also be updated and worked on in real-time, so your project team will always have access to the most up-to-date information.
Add rich elements to your document
Last but not least, project management softwares allow you to add diverse elements into your SoWs and other documents. You can do so much more than add simple text and images like on Google Docs.
If you use Slite to work on your projects, you'll have the following elements at your disposal:
- Checklists & bulleted lists
- Code snippets
- Document links & file attachments
- Tables of contents
We also provide with a variety of integrations you can use like Draw.io, Google Maps, Google Drive, GitHub, Youtube, and more.