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. An SoW contract 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.
What does a statement of work do?
Why are SoWs important? Using an 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 SoW document 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.
Scope of work vs statement of work
Statements of work, scopes of work, and project plans are often talked about together but are not quite the same. For the first two, the SoW acronym is often used for either one - wrongly. Only the statement of work should be written as SoW. 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 written in the work statement and 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. The SoW contract is regarded as one of the most crucial parts of the project plan.
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 writes the statement of work?
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, an SoW in project management is usually drafted by the project manager.
An SoW is usually the first formal documentation that a company will receive, so it's important that it's well done and makes 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. The statement of work isn't limited to any one side of the business deal.
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 writing an SoW for 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.
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, examples of SoW, and more.
Here at Slite, we're passionate about helping project teams work together to their best capacity. An SoW in business is extremely important. 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.
How to write a Statement of Work: Step by Step Guide
Statements of work can be written differently for different businesses and industries, depending on your company needs and project goals. There are, however, some standard methods you should use when writing an SoW. The steps below also include some key elements that should be found within a solid SoW document. 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.
1. Create an outline for the SoW
"The outline is the initial part of the statement that identifies it as a statement of work. It includes the title, date, reference number, writer's name, and other necessary details. This section also includes identifying details about your project like the project's name, project manager(s), high-level team members, key service providers, and clients' names.
You can use varying font sizes with the largest for the title. But while font size and weight may vary, for best results you should maintain the same font type."
2. Introduce the project
Your SoW should start with a brief summary of the project at hand, with all principal details covering the intended work timeline and a list of the stakeholders and their different roles in the project. This step is generally an overview that describes your project context and approach, and establishes who will be working on it. Any relevant project background information can be mentioned here.
3. Define goals and objectives
When you are writing a statement of work in project management, you need a detailed Goals and Objectives section. This section describes the project's mission and vision, states its final aim at completion, and lists expectations and final deliverables.
One or two paragraphs following the goals' section is dedicated to establishing the purpose of the project. The purpose statement outlines why the project is interesting, necessary, or useful. It deviates slightly from the formal tone of the project and can be written in impassioned expression, representing the client's aspirations for the intended sprint.
4. List and fine-tune project requirements
A proper statement of work includes everything needed to successfully complete the project, including funds, labor, and other resources. Make sure that the necessities for each subtask are outlined in detail to avoid confusion later.
5. Specify the scope of work
The scope of work is an extremely important milestone in SoW writing. When writing a statement of work, you must outline the resources to be allocated to each milestone, including people, funds, equipment, and time. This sets the tone for the project plan and outlines all the tasks, bits of work, divisional assignments, milestones, and core activity phases involved in executing the project. All currently estimable bits of work regarding the project should be included.
Generally, this section of the statement is a well-outlined establishment of what work will be done by the team, as well as how the work will be done. This is especially key because it helps avoid the dreaded scope creep.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The scope of work is often mis-thought to be the WBS, but they are not necessarily the same. In a statement of work, the WBS format can be used several times within the scope of work to represent a hierarchy of tasks that break down a project into smaller, more manageable parts. It's sometimes called a task breakdown or work breakdown.
6. Estimate timeline and milestones
Choosing these dates and getting team compliance can be challenging. Prepare the SoW document timeline collaboratively with team member input, and include flexibility (if possible) for plan changes. Attach start and end dates to each task and milestone, but do not set unreasonable timelines or the entire plan will flop. Information on key deliverables and project objectives are also outlined.
This section is sometimes stylized as a period of performance section. It may also include references to payment scheduling.
7. Include budget information and payment terms
Budget issues often arise so don't mince words when you are writing an SoW. Emphasize the importance of on-time payments and give payment schedules for each milestone, task, and period. Be clear about the consequences of teams not completing milestones when payments are due, but be sure to run this by your superiors for clearance first. Also provide an outline of payment methods: it is best to have one collection option that is then disbursed internally to team members.
8. Acceptance Criteria
This is usually a brief but well-outlined section that describes a set of specific requirements to meet for the project to be considered successful. These points could be outlined as a bulleted list, a table of information, modeled infographics, and other methods. This is a solid part of the SoW contract where both parties agree that completion of the project may be initiated if the points outlined in this section are satisfied.
Project Closure Protocol
This section is a description of how the project will ultimately be concluded, as well as expected outcomes. In the statement of work document, the closure protocol must express the details of the events or activities that may surround the end of the project to avoid conflicts from either party in the future.
9. Collect signatures
Start your SoW signature page with a line that describes the binding nature of the agreement. Leave slots for the project manager, stakeholders, and client with each person's name and a slot for the signature of work signing date below.
10. Other supporting elements
Other components of SoW contracts include:
• 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).
• Any authorization documents.
Our top tips for creating a Statement of Work effectively
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 SoW writing, 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, writing an SoW can be 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 outline 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 agreement.
Owing to this, make sure that you 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 document 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 statement of work 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 project 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 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 on your project throughout its lifecycle, a team should be involved in the development of your statement of work contract.
Software like Slite make it easy to create documents collaboratively
When writing an 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 in SoW writing 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. Creating an SoW in project management, especially in large projects, can be a solid test of the team's organization, cooperation, and coordination.
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 track.
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 allows you to keep your work stored in a central workspace online where it can be accessed from just about anywhere at any time. Your statement of work and other 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 software allows 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
-Document links & file attachments
-Tables of contents
-Sample statement of work and other management documents with the template
We also provide a variety of integrations you can use like Draw.io, Google Maps, Google Drive, GitHub, Youtube, and more.
Laure Albouy is Slite's first marketing hire and in charge of Product Marketing. Her role? Making sure our users get the most out of Slite —including guides, product announcements, market research and more. Laure lives in Paris and is a pasta afficionada.