By Manjeet Singh (based on excerpts from the free ProjectMind's quick guide to project management)
A Statement of Work (SOW) is a crucial document that you will constantly update and use as a baseline for your project. The SOW is typically written during the project intitiation phase. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, and your knowledge about the subject matter, you will need to organize meetings with the stakeholders in order to refine the SOW and get it approved. A well-thought out SOW generally contains the following sections:
An Executive Summary
Provides a short overview on the purpose of the project, its background, its scope and sometimes a high-level project plan.
Describes the objectives of the project. The majority of project management literature recommends SMART objectives that are:
- Specific: your objectives must be clear so that if someone reads them, he or she can interpret them without ambiguity.
- Measurable: you should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
- Achievable: do not try to attempt more than you can.
- Realistic: do you have the resources to achieve your objective?
- Time-specific: specify when an objective will be attained (date).
Details the scope that you identified in the Executive Summary of the SOW. In this section, describe the work that will be done. Also, if required, explain what will not be done – this is especially useful to avoid confusion. Note that the Scope section is one of the most important sections of the SOW. Therefore, be very specific when writing it.
A list of the deliverables to be produced by the project. Describe each deliverable in an unambiguous manner that is understood by the team member responsible for it.
Project assumptions, risks/constraints
There might be a number of unknown issues while you are planning your project. For such issues you need to make assumptions, which constitute a risk. Typical project risks are associated with timeframes, and availability of resources (funding, project team members, supplies, etc). Detail the identified risks in your project and include contingency plans for each risk.
A list of all the stakeholders identified so far in the project. You may also want to detail roles of each stakeholder in this section.
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TIP: Get your SOW approved by the stakeholders. Once this is done, you will be ready to start the planning phase of your project.
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