How to Write a Scope of Work (Example Included)

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
scope-of-work

Team collaboration is vital to the success of any project. Some projects require only internal collaborators and resources to accomplish. Others require external collaborators especially when your internal capabilities are not sufficient enough to deliver the project successfully. 

When collaborating with project stakeholders outside your organization, it is easy to miscommunicate and make presumptions that can hurt the progress of your project. 

To avoid these situations and protect your project from scope creep, where new additions expand your project beyond the initial plan, you need a scope of work (SOW). 

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about writing an effective scope of work (SOW) for any project and industry.

Let’s get started.

What is Scope of Work?

Scope of work is an essential document that covers the working agreement between two parties on a project. This document ensures that all project stakeholders or anyone directly linked to the project agree on the tasks, expectations, and objectives as defined in the document. 

For internal projects, organizations use project proposals while for projects involving outside teams, they use SOW. An effective scope of work includes a glossary, project objectives, schedule/milestones, deliverables, reports, individual tasks, payment information, expected outcome, and terms, conditions, and requirements.

  • Glossary: This is the section where you include the meaning of all acronyms, odd, and technical words used in the document. 
  • Project Objectives: Another name for this is the problem statement. Describe the issue you are facing and what you want to achieve with the project here.
  • Schedule/Milestones: Identify when the project should start and end. Break the project into smaller phases or milestones you can easily track.
  • Individual Tasks: Clearly list out the tasks you need to complete to take the project from where it is to the desired state. 
  • Deliverables: What are the quantifiable deliverables you need at the end of the project? Is it a document, a product, or a service?
  • Payment Information: Draw out an estimate of what the project is going to cost and how much the project team can expect to receive from working on the project.
  • Expected Outcomes: You answer the question raised in your project objective or problem statement here. State the objective you want to achieve with the project and how you plan to measure and report on these expected outcomes.
  • Terms, Conditions, and Requirements: Ensure all these are clear by explaining any terms, conditions, or requirements that external collaborators may not be familiar with.

A good SOW has to be clear and written in a simple language that both the internal and external team members can understand. 

Scope of Work Template
Source: TemplateLab

How to Write a Scope of Work Document

Writing a scope of work document is important to the success of any project involving outside teams. Scope of work details an extensive roadmap or framework guiding how to execute the project.

1. Project Objectives

The project objectives are statements that tell you what you want to accomplish at the end of the project. In other words, the project objectives describe the “what” of the project. It usually begins with a brief and concise explanation of the conditions surrounding the project and the objectives the project tends to accomplish. 

Another aim of the project objectives is to predict the said outcomes of the project over a set course of time. The business objectives are the first and most important details in an efficient scope of work document. This sets the pace and details for other key elements.

You must not overcrowd your objectives with too many details. However, include all your project’s basic details with your project objectives. These details usually include the project’s name, the author, the version, the client’s name, and the current date. All this information is necessary and important to help any reader get a clear understanding of your project at first skim.

Provide a concise description of your project along with your project objectives. These descriptions usually include information such as project goals, background, statements as well as stakeholders involved in the project process.

Project TitleWedding Ceremony Planning
Document Author(s) E.J. Dennis
Document VersionVersion 1.0
Client NameA.S Elizabeth, E.T Phillip
Current DateDecember 1st, 2022
Project OverviewThe successful commemoration of the wedding ceremony between the families of Phillip and Elizabeth.

2. Deliverables

This aspect of your scope of work document entails what exactly your project is to deliver. Project deliverables are the reason why you are executing the project for your client(s). 

Your deliverable can either be a document, a report, a product, or a service that you need to identify individually in your scope of work document. 

Efficiently breaking down your work schedule is one of the best ways of showing deliverables. In some cases, you may need to combine your project deliverables with your project timeline to have an idea of when each deliverable is due. 

Your project deliverables are dependent on your project timeline. The advantage of combining your project deliverables with your timeline is that it helps you keep track of your project’s progress.  

An example of project deliverables for a wedding ceremony.

Deliverables 1Invite List
Deliverables 2 Addresses of Attendees
Deliverables 3Invites
Deliverables 4 Addressed Envelopes
Deliverables 5 Stamps

3. Milestones

Projects are usually time-consuming and very tasking depending on the project’s nature. To overcome this complexity in your project’s scope of work, spread your project over a definite timeline. This helps to ensure you efficiently utilize the scarce factor of time properly to reach the project’s deadline. 

Breaking down complex projects into simpler tasks for easier execution helps remove complexities from your project and ensures your project scope of work is easily understandable. Mark large and more complex phases of the project process by milestones. 

Milestones are pre-set and predetermined tasks you have to do for the project within a specific time frame. They are also an efficient means of tracking the progress of the project. 

When drawing up your project’s scope of work, you need to define key milestones needed in the document. These key milestones should include your project timeline and plans, detailed structures for meetings with various stakeholders, and project handoffs. Doing this gives your project scope of work a structured and well-organized outlook.

An example of set milestones for the planning process of a wedding ceremony in a detailed scope of work document.

Milestone 1Selection of guests and collection of addresses
Milestone 2Mailing of invitations
Milestone 3Final count of attendees

4. Individual Tasks

Management of tasks is crucial when working with an external team. The project manager is responsible for breaking down large project scope and objectives into tiny and minute details. This aims to ensure you carry along all stakeholders directly involved or play significant roles in the project.

Note that tasks are not similar to deliverables. Tasks are direct and specific actions you need to take during the project process. Breaking your tasks into distinct phases in a bid to ensure efficiency in tracking down the accomplishment levels of the assigned tasks is a good practice. 

Identify all tasks and subtasks and draw up a plan to execute them. Include details of the expected timeline to complete assigned tasks and the contact information of stakeholders assigned the tasks. This helps to hold various stakeholders accountable and ensures the project does not surpass its set deadline.

An example of various tasks assigned for the planning of a wedding ceremony.

Task 1Employment of a wedding event planner
Task 2Printing and distribution of invites
Task 3Selection of venue for wedding and reception
Task 4Setting up of venue for the event
Task 5Arrangement of feeding and accommodation for guests

5. Timeline

A project timeline is an efficient road map acting as a check and balance throughout the project process. This section of the scope of work document details the major phases in the project and timelines for their duration. 

Account for due dates and project milestones in this section of your project’s scope of work. The project timeline helps to point out various stages in the project where the project deliverables are ready for utilization. This is essential to the overall planning of the project. 

An efficient project timeline should include the overall time frame detailing when the project is to kick off and be completed. What you expect to achieve at various stages of the project and project milestones are also crucial inputs in your project timeline.

An example of a list of the timeline of events for the successful planning of a wedding ceremony. 

Timeline 1Jan. 1 – Decision reached on the invite list
Timeline 2Feb. 1 – Collation of addresses of attendees
Timeline 3March 1 – Pick invitation style and print it
Timeline 4April 1 – Address and mail invites
Timeline 5May 1 – Final account of total guests
Timeline 6June 1 – Wedding ceremony

6. Project Reports

Project reports are vital and key elements in your scope of work document. Reports aim to give a broad view of various project processes. It details the steps taken at various project stages and the outcome. 

You need to generate project status reports at different points in the project’s life cycle. Account for every decision made in your project report.  

Consistent and timely reports on the status and progress of your project are what make up a well-detailed project report. Project reports are formal records of the progress of your project. They help to communicate if your project is meeting the project’s schedule or not. 

Your project’s scope of work should include a detailed description of the mode the project report will take and the frequency. The project sponsor receives project reports to track the progress of the report. Project reports give the project sponsor an idea of all the activities and progress ongoing during the execution of the project.  

Detailed below is a report on the planning process of a wedding ceremony.

ComponentsStatusComment 
BudgetOver BudgetRe-evaluate current expenses to cut costs
ScopeIn ProgressThe overall cost of work is acceptable
RiskIncreasing project’s budget and finishing tasks lateWatch out for late delivery and rising project cost

7. Adoption Plan

Adoption plans are usually left unaccounted for in many SOWs. This is because it is not considered one of the key elements of a good scope of work document. However, this notion is wrong. The adoption plan is a valuable element to include in the scope of work.

An adoption plan details how to achieve deliverables. The project manager is responsible for ensuring the efficient adoption of the project. In most cases, your project team helps to lessen this burden by creating an efficient adoption plan with necessary protocols in place in the event of changes to the scope of work in the future.

Scope of work document is usually drawn up at the start of the project's life cycle. Usually, there may be no need to make changes before the conclusion of the project. Account for significant change in the project’s adoption plan.

Project stakeholders should agree on a protocol for the execution of the adoption plan in case of any eventualities. This ensures a mutual understanding between the client and the project manager. 

8. Payment Information

Every efficient and well-detailed scope of work document always contains payment information that shows the benefits the project stakeholders tend to gain for the successful completion of the project. This part is a very critical aspect of the scope of the work and is usually the last section of the scope of work.

As simple and easy as the payment information may seem, it tends to pose a lot of bottlenecks if not properly scheduled and implemented. After the successful completion of a project, all project stakeholders expect to be duly compensated for their various roles in the project. 

Your scope of work document should contain payment information, payment terms, and conditions. It should also include the most suitable payment mechanisms to ensure a fast and hitch-free payment system. 

Promptness and accuracy in delivering payment are essential. The process should be as transparent as possible to avoid backlogs of problems and complaints.

Simple Scope of Work Example (Easy-to-Use Template) 

To understand the scope of work, let us create a sample project and draw up a scope of work document for it.

Project Details

Project Title: Football Competition Planning

Document Author(s): E.J. Dennis, A.E White

Document Version: Version 2.0

Client Name: A.S Elizabeth

Current Date: December 1st, 2023

Project Overview

The successful commemoration of the football competition between 8 school teams in the Brooklyn area. 

Project Deliverables 

Deliverables 1: Invite List

Deliverables 2: Addresses of Attendees

Deliverables 3: Final list of invites

Project Milestones 

Milestone 1: Selection of schools and collection of addresses in the Brooklyn area

Milestone 2: Sending out invitations to the identified schools administrative offices 

Milestone 3: Final count of attendees

Individual Tasks

Task 1: Employment of an organizer for the project

Task 2: Printing and distribution of invites to the invited schools

Task 3: Selection of venue for the football competition

Task 4: Setting up the venue for the competition

Task 5: Arrangement of feeding, sport wears, and accommodation for invited schools

Project Timeline 

Timeline 1: Jan. 1 – Decision reached on the invite list

Timeline 2: Feb. 1 – Collation of addresses of the various schools

Timeline 3: March 1 – Pick the design for the invitation letters and print it

Timeline 4: April 1 – Send invitation letters to the various schools selected

Timeline 5: May 1 – Final count of invited schools who has accepted to join the competition

Timeline 6: June 1 – Football Competition

Project Reports

ComponentsStatusComment 
BudgetOn TrackExpenses are within what the project’s budget allows. 
ScopePausedThere is a need to reduce the scope of work due to potential complications.
RiskFinishing tasks lateSome tasks are taking more time than anticipated. There is a need to either adjust the timeline or work extra hours to meet up with the current timeline.

Project Adoption Plan

Adoption Protocol 1: Check for new invites

Adoption Protocol 2: Reconfirm invitees addresses

Project Payment Information

The payment is per milestone completed and the payment medium is via PayPal or wire transfer.

Tips for Effective SOWs

In the process of drawing up your scope of work document, consider the following tips to write effective scope of work documents.

  • Specificity: Execute the scope of work document within the project’s framework. This ensures effective coverage across all stakeholders involved in the project. Ensure your scope of work is as specific as possible when detailing key elements of the scope of work document.
  • Be Realistic: When drawing up your scope of work document, it is important to keep your set objectives and timeline as attainable as possible.
  • Open Communication: Communication is a key factor for writing an effective scope of work document. All project stakeholders should openly vet the scope of work before approval. Effective communication allows project managers to have one-on-one interaction with other stakeholders which improves the acceptance of the scope of work.
  • Use of Visuals: Whenever possible, show rather than explain the concept or message you want to pass across through the scope of work. Pictures and examples are useful for explaining your project goals and objectives to project stakeholders. Project management software such as Monday.com, ClickUp, and Wrike have pre-designed scope of work templates you can edit to your taste. 
  • Concise and Brief:  Keep your scope of work document as brief and straightforward as possible by only including important and basic information needed for the project.

How to Use a SOW with Agile Project Development 

Scope of work document is an essential document used by project managers to manage projects successfully. Project stakeholders or companies who practice the agile project development approach raise many questions and issues. 

One of the fundamental questions arising from this approach is how to create a detailed document like the scope of work and adapt it to the agile project development approach.

Despite this fundamental issue, every good and successful project is deficient without proper structures in place. SOW acts as a framework and guides for running a successful project. 

Many companies who make use of the agile project development approach may not notice the full impact of the scope of work document at the start of the project. 

The scope of work document may need to undergo substantial changes and adaptation for it to successfully coexist with the agile project development approach.

One of the best ways of using SOW with agile project development is by dividing the scope of work into distinct phases that you can track and account for. 

Although some phases may contain more details than others, and requirements vary at different phases, the fundamental elements guiding the scope of the work are the same for every phase. The goal remains to have a successful project outcome.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.