A statement of work (SoW) is an important document that usually accompanies a contract. It provides some high-level detail about the work to be performed and the associated roles and responsibilities. Having a good SoW is always essential to get the best outcomes, and it is crucial for fixed contracts. Here are five tips to improve your SoWs.
Define success. After a general introduction to the project, be sure to define success and how success will be measured. Clarity between the buyer and seller is essential to get the expected outcomes and provide the project manager with actionable information for later negotiations. For more ideas to get the right amount of project clarity, check out our article, 5 Superior Stakeholder Questions for Project Leaders to Ask.
Be as detailed as possible about the "what." While it is typical only to have high-level deliverables, provide as much detail about "what" is needed as possible. Be sure the deliverables are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Unless there is some element of the "how" that is critical, let the team study the problem and determine how they will complete the work. It will make them feel empowered, and you may learn something you didn't know before.
Define payment schedule and tie to major deliverables. The SoW will typically include some information about payments. It is usual to start with a down payment as a signal that the buyer and seller are ready to get started. Around 25% of the overall project is typical. Some additional payments should be tied to the significant deliverables. A final payment, somewhere between 25 and 50% of the entire project, will be due when the project is delivered by the seller and approved by the buyer.
Include the change management process. Changes to the project are inevitable and can occur at any time, so be sure the change management process is defined in the SoW. For example, a salesperson had poorly explained the scope for one project—having this process described early helped the client understand how we would handle this.
Use plain language. While the SoW is a legal document accompanying a contract, write it in plain language. Be sure the legal department doesn't make it overly complicated and filled with "legalese." Avoid jargon and legal terms. Be sure any acronyms are defined in a glossary. The SoW is a document the buyer and seller must read and understand, so clarity is vital.
Do you have other tips for writing SoWs to share? Please leave a comment!
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