What is a Statement of Work (SOW)? Definition & Examples

When was the last time that you had to set up a project for work? Chances are it wasn’t all that long ago, right? You probably had to work on drafting documents and organizing all kinds of information for your clients, your bosses, and your team. Well, that’s part of starting a project, but if you didn’t create a Statement of Work at the same time you were hurting yourself and everyone else on the team in the process. That’s because this document is going to be the heart and soul of what you’re trying to accomplish.

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What is a Statement of Work?

The Statement of Work is a single document that helps you to define absolutely everything that you’re working on. Rather than having to go through a dozen different forms and papers to find information like your tasks, your timeline, and your deliverables, this is a single document that puts it all into one place. That makes it a whole lot easier for you and your entire team to go back and see what’s going on when you need to, or to check in on things if you feel like you’ve got a little lost.
This is actually the first thing that you need to work on, rather than creating any of the other spreadsheets or tracking systems. You need a Statement of Work in order to understand what you’re agreeing to provide for your client and what they’re agreeing to as far as deadlines and the work that they expect. Once you all have an idea of what is supposed to be coming, it’s going to make things a whole lot easier for everyone involved, because you’ll always have something that you can refer back to if you need to.

What is In Your Statement of Work?


This is where you’ll do exactly that, introduce the project as well as the people who are going to be working on it so you always have a quick overview of everything with just a moment’s glance at your paperwork.


Why are you creating this project? You need to know what the overall goal of the project is so you know what you’re going to do in order to get there. Without a purpose, it’s difficult to know your next steps or the way that your team can work on it.


What are the tasks that need to be completed within the project? This isn’t where you’re going to lay them out individually, but you are going to want to know just how expansive (or not) the project is meant to be. You don’t want to go outside what’s actually needed.


Where is the project going to take place? Are you going to do it on-site with the client? Are you going to be working remotely? Is this a project that is done in your facility and then handed over to the client? Explain where the work will be done.


This is where you’re going to break down each of the different tasks that you will work on for the client. You may have to break down into a whole lot of tasks or just a few. You may need subtasks or even sub subtasks. All of this is fine.


What are the milestones that you need to reach in order to make sure that you are on track with the project? Where would you like to hit some of the bigger tasks or the bigger points in the project and mark them on a calendar?


What do you need to provide to the client during the course of the project or even when you’re all done? These are the deliverables and you need to know what you’re expecting to provide as well as what the client is expecting you to provide at all times.


Layout a schedule of events and all of the things that you need to do in order to make sure that you’re on track. When are you going to do different tasks, when are deliverables due, when do milestones need to be met? All of this should be written down.


What are the standards that are required in order for the project to be considered completed or for specific deliverables to be considered complete? What testing needs to be done in order to make sure that everything is up to those standards or up to a code requirement?


What is going to constitute success? What would have to be done in order for the entire team as well as the client to feel that this project has been successful and you can continue on with another project or call the project complete as a whole?


What are the equipment necessities or other necessities that go along with creating this project? What would you need in order to make sure that everything is done properly and to make sure it’s all completed to specifications as well? You want to make sure you have all of that equipment.


What are you going to be paid for the project? When are you going to be paid? If payments will be made in milestones when are those going to be sent? How will payments be made? What needs to be done in order for that payment to be made?


This is where you’re going to add in any additional information that you need to keep track of about the project that might not fit into the other categories we’ve already mentioned. Add anything else you or the client is going to need to know in this section.


This is where you’re going to close out. Just like with an essay you want to have a brief wrap-up of what you’ve discussed, how you’ll deliver information or deliverables to your client, and when the project is going to be completed. This makes it easier for everyone to stay on top of things.

Why Do You Need it?

There are a number of different reasons that this type of information is important and that having all of it in one place is going to be even more so. With a Statement of Work, you’re going to have everything you need all put together in one place. Now, you’ll likely still need to keep track of some (if not all) of that information in other places too, but you’ll know one place you can always look to make sure that things are going the way that they should.

Your Statement of Work should be discussed and agreed to by everyone who is involved in the project at the highest levels. That means the project manager, the client, and even your supervisors or bosses should be involved in that statement. You should all go over it together to make sure that it’s an accurate representation of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. If it is, then you’re great and you’re going to have no problem moving forward with the rest of your work. If it’s not, you’ll know it’s time to head back to the drawing board to get what you need.

Once the document is agreed to by everyone and all of the information is laid out in it you’re going to have something that you can pull up at any time. If the client wants to question something or your team isn’t sure what they need to be doing you can always pull up that Statement of Work to refer back to. You’ll be able to point out each of the sections and all of the information that’s been put into that document and see where the answers are and what actually should be done.

If you’re the project manager you’re also going to have a much easier time laying out all of the specifics and information that you need for the project when you have a Statement of Work to start with. This is going to help you flesh out all of the different tasks and subtasks that need to be completed within the project so you can put them into a format that’s a little easier for everyone to keep track of. After all, the Statement of Work is going to be great for recording the basics, but you need a way that can be more easily managed rather than a single document.

Writing Your Statement of Work

Writing up this document doesn’t have to be difficult, but it can be time-consuming. After all, you’re going to be writing up a single document that contains all of the information about your project. It’s going to be long, in-depth, and quite extensive. Not to mention you’re going to need to do quite a bit of research and work with several different people in order to get it right. And hopefully, you can get it right the first time around to speed up the process.

Make sure that when you do start writing it you’re as specific as possible. You want to lay out all of the information that you have (and get answers to any information that you don’t) right away. That’s going to make your paperwork a whole lot more complete and efficient for everyone involved. Not to mention it’s going to make sure that no one is confused down the road and no one can come back and say that something was (or wasn’t) in the project brief. It’s all going to be right there.

You don’t have to write out this document in a series of essays or paragraphs, however. You can actually write it out with a lot of information in tables, graphs, charts, images, and more. In fact, it’s a good idea for you to do so because those are going to break up the information and make it easier to read. They’re also going to make it a whole lot easier for you to refer back to some of the information. If you can find the chart you need it’s easier to jump right into what needs to be done.

Finally, make sure that you always get your Statement of Work approved. If you write up everything the way you think it is supposed to be done or the way you think the client wants but you never get it signed off you’re never going to know if you’re correct. At least, not until you start turning in deliverables or a final project and the client isn’t happy. That’s definitely not going to help you or your client in the long run. So, make sure that you show them your Statement of Work when it’s complete and work together to make sure that it’s exactly what they were expecting or what they need.

Wrapping it Up

When you’re working on any type of project for a client you want to make sure that it’s being done right. You want to make sure that you’re on the right track, you’re on the same page and more. All of that can be done by working out your Statement of Work as early in the process as possible. Then, you can take that Statement of Work and use it to create a system of tracking your tasks and your progress with each member of your team through a Gantt chart. This process will help you make sure everything is getting done just like you agreed.
When you’re ready to create a Gantt chart, make sure you check out Instagantt to help you along the way. The process is simple and you’ll be able to quickly and easily layout everything that needs to be done in no time.

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