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Statement of Work (SOW)

The Statement of Work (SOW) is an extremely detailed document that lays out the entire landscape of a new project and covers aspects of the project including the scope, activities, deliverables, key participants, milestones, and the timeline.  In essence, it is an agreement between a service provider and a client/customer that defines what’s included in a project, and what’s not.

Why it’s important

An SOW is one of the most important project documents as it lays the groundwork for the project plan. It is created at the start of the project to get everyone on the same page and avoid confusion and conflicts in the project.

By defining exactly what should be done on a project, the SOW protects you from scope creep where features, additions, and good-to-haves extend the project beyond what was initially agreed upon. 

Contents of an SOW

At a minimum, the SoW document should detail:

  1. Overview: The project, its purpose, what it aims to achieve, key stakeholders/departments, etc. 
  2. Expected Outcomes: What success for the project looks like in concrete statements (such as an increase in sales, traffic, conversions, etc). This includes defining the business objective for the project, how success will be measured and reported, etc. 
  3. Tasks or work breakdown: The approach taken to complete the project, the phases, and the tasks as part of the execution.
    Milestones, schedules, and deliverables: Key points in the implementation journey, the associated timelines, and the deliverables for key phases and tasks. 
  4. Work requirements: Any specific requirements on how the project is to be completed, such as specific approaches, tools, etc.
  5. Approvals/signoffs, and acceptance testing: The protocol for intermediate approvals and signoffs, standards/criteria, and responsibilities for intermediate and acceptance testing. 

Best practices for SOWs

  1. Keep it brief: While detail is important, focus on making it easy to read and understand. Use standard templates that you have tried and tested with multiple customers. 
  2. Do it early: Don’t put off drafting the SOW. Starting early gives you a chance to let the SOW evolve based on your improved understanding of the project and its needs.
  3. Be clear about the scope, especially what’s not included.

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