Must-Have Items on a Scope of Work (SOW)

construction engineer at large condominium building site
••• Kwangmoozaa / Getty Images

A statement of work, sometimes called a scope of work or SOW, can make a great construction contract even better. A well-written statement of work is clear, complete, logical, and concise so it can be understood by both the contractor and the construction manager responsible for the administrative portion of the contract. The SOW describes in detail what is expected from the contractor and is used as a measuring tool for the construction manager to ensure the project deliverables are met.

Basic Elements of a Scope of Work

A scope of work describes all of the work to be done on a project, who is responsible for completing the work, how the work must be performed (techniques used), and what materials will be used. As part of this description, a SOW typically:

  • Identifies the contractor's responsibilities
  • Defines contract objectives and project requirements
  • Provides enough details to estimate labor costs
  • Includes a contracting method and the payment schedule
  • Outlines standards, regulation, and special contract requirements
  • Explains all related tasks, duties, and limitations required to obtain expected results in accordance with the project goal

Wording in a Statement of Work

A statement of work must be clear enough to allow for only one interpretation. Clear wording is key to minimizing the risk of claims, litigation, and other related problems. A SOW should avoid ambiguous phrasing and must identify the project deliverables and its objectives. If an action is mandatory, the statement of work should use the words shall or must. In most cases, a SOW does not include the cost of products or services that a contractor is contracted to provide.

A statement of work also can include drawings, photographs, and other visual elements to provide clarity and prevent confusion. Visuals are highly recommended if any of the wording in a SOW may be open to more than one interpretation or possible misunderstanding.

Basic Components of a SOW

A statement of work should have the following components:

  • Project overview: a brief statement describing the business needs and a short summary of the project description
  • Project deliverables: expected goals and targets that must be achieved through the project, including information that will help a contractor in understanding the project's requirements
  • Project scope: budget and technical data—the quantifiable goals set forth under the construction contract; may be divided into two parts:
    a. Technical considerations: specific techniques or methodologies relevant to the contractor's performance and how it will be measured
    b. Tasks: specific requests and tasks that are needed to satisfy project objectives, with detailed milestones and results that should be obtained from these tasks
  • Project schedule: summarizes the project schedule, including all related tasks so the contractor can deliver on time; should contain all important delivery dates, time restrictions, and the expected project duration
  • Project management: Describes the primary functions of the project administration, including how payments will be issued, processes for changes and change control, specific contract terms and legal requirements, phasing or stages of the project, project limitations, time management, and general contract administration.