Statement of Work (SOW)

Team reviewing an sow

Before you work on a new project, it’s a good idea to plan and plot out all requirements in a contract signed between the client and the vendor, whether the vendor is an internal agency or an external contractor. This document is known as a statement of work. What exactly is a statement of work? And why is it so integral to project success? Read on to learn everything you need to know about statements of work.

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What is a statement of work?

A statement of work (SOW) details project requirements, timelines, and essential components, so everyone involved in a project understands the full scope of the agreement. Every project manager and team member should understand the SOW thoroughly before beginning a project.

SOWs protect both the client and the agency producing the work. These contracts are legally binding documents that detail the amount of money a client will pay in exchange for a certain amount of work.

Purposes and benefits of a statement of work.

Having a well-formed statement of work before a project starts can be extremely beneficial to a project manager and the overall project team. You should view your SOW as a guidebook—it provides the framework for a project and may even detail the essential steps, key milestones, and timelines to complete a project.

Here are some key benefits of having a clearly defined SOW:

Components of a statement of work.

Since SOWs can be complicated, it’s important to understand the basic components of this type of document. Please note that SOWs can vary in length, structure, and level of detail.

Most SOWs will contain some combination of the below components:

SOWs may include additional components, such as glossaries of terms, samples of previous work, and a section detailing what would define the project as successful.

How to write a statement of work.

Now that you understand what a statement of work is and its key components, you might be curious about how to write one. It’s important to be careful and thorough when crafting a SOW—you want to ensure you include all relevant information to make sure a project stays in scope and completes on time.

Here are a few quick tips to help you create your own SOW:

Define industry terms.

Jargon can be confusing to clients and could inadvertently suggest that they’re receiving something different from what your team imagines. Clear up any confusion quickly by defining key terms in a glossary.

Remove ambiguous language.

Ambiguous language can lead to massive scope creep, costing project teams more time and money. Avoid ambiguous language such as “revisions, as needed” or “numerous concepts” since this can lead clients to believe they will receive an unlimited number of revisions or designs. Instead, specify a number so you can request a change order if the client exceeds this limit.

Add imagery and graphic elements.

Keep your SOW visually interesting by including imagery and graphic elements like charts and graphs, which can be particularly helpful when laying out timelines.

Clearly define payment terms.

It’s important to be as clear and granular as possible in this section. Explain when you will invoice the client, the amount of the invoice, and when payment is due.

Create a realistic timeline.

Figuring out a timeline can be tricky, but Workfront has the tools you need to plan your tasks and figure out a realistic schedule. It’s important to account for the time that the client will spend during this process, too. If heavy approval and feedback are required, be sure to build that into your schedule. You can use Workfront’s Scenario Planner to create gantt charts and reactive timelines.

Note any client requirements.

Be sure to specify any work that the client will need to complete during the project. For instance, if you are building a website but require the client to pay for hosting and a web domain, specify those two requests as a client requirement. You can even set a deadline for these tasks, so you are protected if the client exceeds this date.

Specify project management and reporting tools.

Let the client know in your SOW what project management tools and systems, such as Workfront, you will use to track progress and measure success. If you are using software that you can share with the client, specify if they will receive access to this tool in your SOW.

Review SOW with team members.

Lastly, it’s important to make sure other team members review your SOW to ensure it contains all of the required information.

Plan, manage, and fulfill your statement of work.

A clear and thorough SOW will set a project up for success, while a poorly written one can doom a project from the start. To ensure all of your bases are covered, work as a team to assemble and review your SOW before beginning any work. There’s no better project protection than having a well-crafted SOW on your side.