Statement of work and scope of work, both commonly abbreviated as SOW, are often confused, interchanged terms. And, as straightforward as each sound, they’re often anything but easy to write. Make it too vague and broad and it leaves room for interpretation error; make it too convoluted with detail and it leaves room for the reader to get confused and distracted. Either case can lead to fiscal, safety, efficiency, and legal woes, especially when freelance workers are involved.
The SOW as a whole is a planning tool that allows project managers to develop performance-based work relationships with vendors because all aspects of performance and subsequent assessment are laid out upfront.
It can be a standalone process OR written in conjunction with an RFP, or request for proposal, asking the freelancer to respond with a proposal.
What is a Statement of Work Used for?
So, to be more detailed, a statement of work is used by project managers to give a wide description of all the work that needs to be done. They list off all the key expectations, so contractors know what’s expected of them. It’s almost like giving an artist a blank canvas - they need directions to know what to do and how to do it. Without any, you wouldn’t get the picture that you desired. The same goes for a statement of work; with it, the project is effectively a guessing game for the contractor.
In general, the SOW is basically a tool to help bring together project managers and freelance contractors. It gets everyone on the same page before any production begins. This way, managers share their goals and objectives, and the freelancers understand what they have to do. The scope of work comes as part of the statement of work; it takes things into more detail and brings more narrow definitions of what’s required. So, when the project gets underway, there should be no issues with contractors not following the right plan or doing all the correct tasks!
Statement of Work and Scope of Work: What is SOW?
What is a statement of work (SOW)? Effectively, it defines the specific goals for a project; what needs to be delivered, and the performance criteria. This is often confused with the scope of work as they’re both abbreviated to SOW. With the scope of work, you’re looking at all the specific tasks that a particular project manager has to perform to reach all the objectives. While both are important, the statement of work is the more critical of the two.
It’s not uncommon to see both terms abbreviated as SOW, but they’re actually two different entities.
The statement of work is a formal document used by project managers to broadly describe the project scope of work to be completed, responsibilities, and expectations within a particular project. It’s a commonplace tool for the management of vendor and freelance work on a project.
The scope of work is an element within that statement which more narrowly defines what work is to be done by the employees or contractor.
Think of it like the difference between retinol and vitamin A. Technically, they’re different compounds, but they’re used interchangeably because consumed vitamin A becomes retinol in the body. The scope is consumed within the statement and becomes one and the same.
Now that we’ve answered the question of what is SOW, it’s time to discuss the objective. The objective, or scope statement, clearly identifies the project’s objective and purpose. Think about how the project was initiated, who it benefits, what purpose it serves, why it’s needed, and when it needs to be ready for utilization? Asking all the pertinent who, what, when, and how questions can help determine each objective goal and end result in order to formulate a comprehensive scope statement. This will define what work is to be done and by whom. It will also define what constitutes success and failure of the project.