How to write a template for a statement of work (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 September 2022

Published 12 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective project management uses a variety of different documents to start and run projects successfully. A statement of work is one of the documents that project managers frequently use to share important information with clients, project team members and other stakeholders. Knowing what a statement of work is and what it contains makes it easier to create one for a project you're working on. In this article, we discuss what a statement of work is, provide a template for a statement of work and list seven steps in how to make one, with further tips to help you.

What is a statement of work?

A statement of work (SOW) is a type of project documentation that project managers usually produce at the start of a project. When stakeholders approve the statement of work, the project can begin. It sets out the objectives and terms of a specific project or service contract and functions as an agreement between the client and the company executing the project. This document helps to clarify the details of the project and ensures clear communication between the project manager, project team and other stakeholders. Statements of work are comprehensive and include a variety of information such as:

  • project scope

  • objectives

  • deliverables

  • timelines

  • expectations

Template for a statement of work

Here's a general template for a statement of work, allowing you to remove or replicate sections as necessary:
Name:
Phone:
Email:

Project background: [a broad overview of all aspects of the project, including its purpose, objectives and benefits]

Project scope: [explain requirements for meeting project goals, including any equipment or resources, steps and tasks]
Milestone 1 due date:
Deliverables: [the products of each milestone, with explanations of their overall roles in the project]
Milestone 2 due date:
Deliverables: [the products of each milestone, with explanations of their overall roles in the project]
Milestone 3 due date:
Deliverables: [the products of each milestone, with explanations of their overall roles in the project]

Stakeholder's name:
Phone:
Email:
Roles/responsibilities: [definition of the stakeholder's responsibilities and how they contribute to the project]

Estimated costs: [including factors such as labour and resources]
Expenses:
Description: [you may want to include any potential return on investment here]
Cost:

Project owner signature:
Project manager signature:
Project sponsor signature:

Why is a statement of work important?

Having a statement of work is important because it clarifies the details of a project and what the project aims to achieve. This document has significant detail and describes exactly what activities and objectives the project includes. This provides reassurance for the client and other stakeholders and helps to promote open communication from the beginning of the project. It also provides the following benefits:

Combatting disagreements or conflicts

A statement of work is helpful to refer to if there are disagreements or conflicts during the project. It makes it clear what was originally agreed to and approved when the project started. If a project proceeds before you make a statement of work, it increases the chances of uncertainty or misunderstandings. The statement of work makes tasks and expectations clear, meaning these details are clearly defined and agreed upon before the project progresses.

Considering a project's finer details

Another reason why making a statement of work is important is that it helps you to consider the finer details of the project. When you're creating a statement of work you might make adjustments to timelines or other estimates because you're considering the project in greater detail. Stakeholders might also review the document and provide input that leads to changes. Looking at the details of the project in this way ensures greater accuracy.

Related: What is the definition of a project (with planning steps)?

Statements of work for internal projects

Statements of work are particularly useful for projects that have external clients or stakeholders, but they can also be beneficial for internal projects. It can still be worthwhile to have one for the project team's reference if your project is internal, as it clarifies expectations and deliverables for team members. An internal statement of work might be less formal than the one you create for a client, but it can still be useful to clarify what's to happen during a project.

How to write a statement of work

Having a template is useful when writing a statement of work. There are some additional steps you can follow to complete the template successfully and ensure that your statement of work includes sufficient detail. Statements of work include a number of different sections and following these steps helps to make sure you include all the information you need.

1. Write an introduction

Writing an introduction is useful to give an overview of the entire project. You might also include a table of contents. The introduction can include basic introductions of the personnel working on the project and an introduction to more detailed sections later in the statement of work. The introduction can give a broad overview of all aspects of the project, but remember to keep things clear. You can provide further detail about each aspect later on in the statement of work.

Related: What Is A Purpose Statement? (And How To Write One)

2. Explain the project's purpose

Following the introduction, you can explain the purpose of the project in greater detail. This can include how the project benefits the company or client. This section may also include information about the project's objectives and deliverables. It explains why the project is necessary and important to both the business and other stakeholders.

3. Define the project scope

Defining the project scope means explaining the requirements to meet the project's goals. The purpose of this section is to define how to make the project successful and how long it's likely to take. It can include details about what equipment and software the project team needs, timeframes for each part of the project and the individual steps and tasks required to complete each part of the project.

Related: Project scope: definition, importance and how to develop it

4. Define project milestones and deliverables

Defining project milestones and deliverables in the statement of work helps the project run on time and meet deadlines. This section explains how to complete the project and how long it's likely to take. It also breaks the project down into more manageable segments, which makes expectations clear to both project team members and stakeholders.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

5. Include stakeholder details

The statement of work also includes details for key stakeholders. This clarifies the contact information and responsibilities of each stakeholder. Including this section can limit the risk of conflicts during the project. It also shows how each stakeholder contributes to the project.

6. Include project cost estimates

Project cost estimates clarify how much you expect the project to cost. This section might include costs like labour, resources, software and equipment and services. Including this information in the statement of work helps to show the return on investment the project has. This means that clients and the company itself can better understand the benefits of pursuing the project.

Related: Your guide to controlling cost in project management

7. Include a project approval section

The project approval section includes key stakeholders and gives them the authority to approve the start of the project. This section usually includes several stakeholders who can all check the statement of work and share their input. Doing this helps to ensure accuracy. Stakeholders who are typically present in the project approval section are the project manager, product owner, project sponsor and any other major stakeholders.

Tips for creating a statement of work

If someone asks you to create a statement of work for a project, there are some useful tips you can follow. These suggestions ensure that your statement of work has the right level of detail and includes all of the necessary information while still being easy to understand. A good quality statement of work can help to promote communication, clarity and transparency throughout the project. It can be helpful to make sure you have plenty of time available to create the statement of work and ensure that it's accurate. Some tips include:

Be concise

The statement of work is likely to include a lot of information, but it's helpful to be as concise as possible. This makes the statement of work easier for others to understand. You might also find it helpful a use a checklist while writing to ensure you include all of the essential information, while still writing in a clear and concise way.

Prepare for changes

When stakeholders review the statement of work, they might wish to make adjustments. Try to prepare for these changes in advance, as this eases the project's approval process and ensures that everyone taking part is in agreement. Including space for feedback or changes helps to make the document more comprehensive and accurate. If a stakeholder requests a change, it's also worthwhile to evaluate the request and decide whether it's beneficial before incorporating it into the document.

Recognise significant stakeholders

Recognising significant stakeholders is important in the statement of work. For clarity, it's worthwhile to identify all of the significant stakeholders, their level of authority and their roles and responsibilities in the project. This supports the flow of the project and ensures effective communication.

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