What Should I Look For in a Statement of Work?

“Dear Elizabeth: I am working with a vendor and they have sent over a statement of work (SOW) for me to review. The problem is that I don’t know what I’m looking for. What should I take note of in the document so I can give them feedback and also protect the interests of the company and project going forward?”

Statements of work are very common in project management, so you are going to come across many more in your career. A SOW is a description of what the project is going to deliver and how the work is going to be done. You’ll often have a master services agreement too, which includes all the main contractual requirements and clauses. That frees up the SOW to focus solely on the description of the project work.

Let’s consider what you should be looking out for in your SOW. 

1. Scope

The most important aspect of the SOW is the scope. The overall objective listed in the SOW should make sense and support what you have asked the vendor to do. 

Check to make sure the documented, detailed scope aligns to what you think the scope should be, and includes everything. Dependencies on other tasks or projects should also be included so you can adequately manage them together.

There should also be a statement of what is explicitly excluded from the scope. The more detail the better!

2. Timelines and resourcing

The second thing to consider is the timeline laid out in the SOW. Does it fit with your expectation of project delivery dates? Are there requirements made of your team that you need to achieve by a certain date, for example, provision of brand assets or making resources available? And can you meet those?

Check that the vendor has specified a date from which the work can begin, or at least made a statement like, ‘within three weeks of the SOW being approved’. Lead times for starting work can often be quite long because they might have other projects with different clients to finish first.

Talking of resourcing, check whether you are securing dedicated resources to complete the work, or whether these will be shared with other clients. Typically, if the resource is available to you only on a part-time basis, they will be doing other chargeable work for other clients during the rest of their time. That might be OK by you, but if you need people to be constantly available, you may want to challenge that assumption and negotiate exclusive use of their resources during your project.

Rates of pay for each resource should be included, especially where these are on a per-project basis or different to the rates agreed in the master services agreement, if you have one. 

The SOW should also include payment milestones and how these are linked to time and deliverables. Check you are clear about when they expect to be paid – and that you are happy to meet those expectations. 

3. Governance

The SOW should also talk about project governance. 

Check that the change control process is documented, along with risks, assurance, and quality measures. The SOW should clearly state who owns the deliverables (although this might be covered by the master services agreement). 

You can ask them to include any performance measures

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