Statement of Work: Guidelines
A Statement of Work (SOW), sometimes called a “Scope of Work” or “Standard Operating Procedure” (SOP), is a document that outlines a project that needs to be done. If done correctly, it confirms to the writer that they have a clear understanding of the project. To the reader it should be clear without having extra language. It should provide good metes and bounds on a project without being too restrictive.
A good Statement of Work can be turned into a full specification, is the beginning of a project development, or can be used to prepare a request for proposal for engineering or other professional work.
People with different perspectives and life experiences will read your statement. Readers may include members of the board, industry personnel, managers, technical experts, accountants and lawyers. All these readers need to understand the statement; therefore, language selection is very important.
- Use simple words, phrases, and sentences whenever practical.
- Be concise, precise, and consistent. Keep sentences short and to the point. Normally the longer the sentence, the harder it is to understand.
- Use verbs in the active voice. A verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. For example, “The contractor shall report contract progress quarterly” rather than, “Contract progress shall be reported quarterly by the contractor.”
- Use “shall” or “must” when writing a binding requirement. Avoid “should” or “may” unless you mean to leave the decision on appropriate action up to the contractor.
- Use “will” to indicate actions you or your agency will perform.
- Be consistent when using terminology. Use the same word to mean the same thing throughout your statement.
- Avoid redundancy as it can lead to confusion and possible errors.
- Avoid vague or inexact phrases and generalizations.
- Avoid catchall and open-ended phrases, such as, “is common practice in the industry,” “as directed,” or “subject to approval.” If you want to give an opportunity to use standard commercial practices, require a description in the proposal or bid.
- Define technical terms and avoid using jargon. Definitions are one area where too much information is better than too little.
- Only use “any,” “either,” “and/or,” “etc.” when allowing the selection of an alternative.
- Use abbreviations or acronyms only after spelling them out the first time they are used (e.g., Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP)). Spell them out the first time they are used even if they are commonly used by the user’s agency because a commercial contractor may not be familiar with them.
- Identify the date or version of any document referenced in your statement.
- Advise readers where they can obtain referenced documents.
Scope of Work Sample Format
The following sample format is meant to be a guide and should be tailored to the specific requirements of the project. While it is not necessary to be so formal, a good organizational structure makes it easier to follow and use later. Sections may be removed as needed.
The template below has 10 sections, but not all 10 are needed in many cases.
- Place of Performance
- Period of Performance
The background may also be identified as the “Introduction,” this section provides information needed to acquaint the reader with the project. The background information should:
- Identify the requirements of the project in general terms
- Describe why the project is being pursued and how it relates to other projects
- Summarize any statutory authority or regulations affecting the overall requirement
- Identify any background materials attached to the statement
The background should not be used to discuss the tasks to be performed or direct work. Those items will be discussed below in section 4.0 - Tasks.
Provide a statement of what the government expects to accomplish under the project. The scope should not include specific work tasks or a description of any deliverable products.
The scope statement should be brief, one to two sentences. Examples:
- The scope of this contract is limited to the development of a policy memorandum related to MAP-21.
- The scope of this contract is limited to onsite support services related to administration, financial reconciliation, and environmental review.
This section should provide a concise overview of:
- The contract effort, goals and objectives
- What the end product or service of the effort will be
Example: The objective of this contract is to develop a policy memorandum that details the financial impact on the States as it relates to MAP-21 and formula grants.
NOTE: The scope and objective may look similar but they both offer very distinct ideas.
Sometimes identified as “Requirements” or “Work Requirements,” this section defines the specific tasks that the contractor must complete during contract performance. The description of task requirements will depend on the approach that is selected to describe the required effort.
- For a detailed statement, this section describes how the effort must be accomplished. It may include precise measurements, tolerances, materials, quality control requirements, and other government requirements that control the processes of the contractor.
- For a Performance-Based Work Statement, this section describes requirements in terms of results required rather than the methods for completing the work. This latitude will permit the contractor to develop new and innovative ways to complete those tasks.
- For a Level of Effort statement, this section identifies all tasks that must be performed and the hours to be devoted to each task.
This section must describe requirements in a way that permits contractor personnel to perform the effort without direct government supervision. Contractor personnel must not be subject to the type of supervision and control usually prevailing between the government and its employees. For example, a statement may permit the government to approve key personnel, but must not permit the government to approve actual individual personnel performing the service. The statement should also not include words that appear to indicate that the government is managing day-to-day operations.
- Specify requirements clearly so that all readers can understand them.
- Reference the applicable specifications and standards needed.
- Tailor specifications and other documents for the specific effort.
- Separate general information from direction.
This section should clearly state:
- What the contractor must deliver (for example services, reports, items). If different tasks have different delivery requirements, they must be clearly identified.
- When the contractor must deliver. This may be stated using actual dates, days after contract award, or using some other method that clearly marks the required delivery date.
- Where the contractor must deliver the service. This may be stated as a location, an organization, a person identified by position (e.g., Contracting Officer’s Representative, a person identified by name or using some other description).
- What documentation (if any) the contractor must obtain from the government to verify government receipt of the delivery.
This section identifies the agency’s responsibility including actions to be taken by the agency such as inspection, services by the agencies, and any government property provided to the contractor, such as government-furnished material, equipment, or information. Before offering to provide any property, make sure that it will be available when required, where required, and in the condition required to meet the scope of the work. Failure to meet government-furnished property requirements often leads to a contractor claim for an equitable adjustment to contract price, delivery, or other requirements.
This section identifies any unique security requirements associated with contract performance (when applicable). These requirements may include, but are not limited to, such items as:
- Special pass or identification requirements;
- Special security clearance requirements; or
- Special escort requirements.
This section identifies where the contract effort will be performed. If performance will occur at multiple government locations, this section must indicate which tasks must be completed where. If performance will be at the contractor’s facility, the SOW need only state that the effort will be accomplished at the contractor’s facility.
The period of performance may be stated using actual dates, days after contract award, or using some other method. If different periods of performance will apply to different tasks, the tasks and related periods of performance should be clearly identified.
This section provides an estimate of costs using the information listed above. It may be used as an estimate for determining if quotes are reasonable or to help with budgeting. This section may not be included in the final specification or request for proposal, but is very useful for the agency.