How to Write Scope of Work – 7 Necessary Steps and 6 Best Practices


Part 1

What Is a Scope of Work?

A scope of work is when someone constructs a document that breaks down the division of labor under an agreed upon contract or subcontract. The work is detailed from the beginning of the project to completion with the inclusion of specific tasks and deadlines. Typically, it is used in project management settings to outline the work needed to complete a project. These documents can be challenging to compose as leaders have to think about a multitude of variables that could arise during the lifecycle of the project. There could be numerous deliverables or tasks to carry out, and leaders have to be mindful of each one when crafting a scope of work. This is the official document that project managers and team members will refer to when working, so it is essential that project managers hit all the vital points.

Why Is a Scope of Work Needed?

A comprehensive and well-thought-out scope of work documents sets an organization apart from the rest. It ensures that miscommunication is minimized between project teams and corresponding clients. It lays down the foundation of the future of the project and is a roadmap for teams to work through. If something were to happen where individual team members had to drop out of the project, or details had to change, workers could still move through the project because the scope of work gives teams everything they need to continue to work through the remainder of the project. Scope of work documents are also great for talking through project details with clients. This can help answer any questions and clear up misunderstandings before the start of the project. This document ensures that both parties understand each other’s expectations.

A scope of work is also needed to provide a fair quote for services. Clients may wonder how pricing is created for a project, and this process leaves no doubt for how quotes are calculated when taking into account each milestone and task assigned. This method is a great way to establish transparency with clients, so they understand each part of the project and how labor, materials, and time play a part in calculating the final quote.

Part 2
How to Write Scope of Work and What to Include

The scope of work is a comprehensive document, and it includes a lot of components that are essential to clarity. The steps below are helpful in organizing a process to create a detailed and useful scope of work.

  1. Step One — Have a detailed conversation with the client to gather all information needed to create a scope of work and understand the expectations. These conversations can be used to build the foundation of the scope of work. It would also be helpful to have team members involved in this dialogue.
  2. Step Two — Meet with stakeholders and team members to discuss the client’s expectations and the rough scope of the project. This allows stakeholders the opportunity to let project managers know about the approximate resources available for a budget, and discuss a strategy with team members.
  3. Step Three — Be specific on the various components of the project to share a project plan with team members and stakeholders to get their buy-in before starting on a detailed scope of work.
  4. Step Four — Make a conscious effort to avoid any jargon or technical language that would be unclear to clients or team members. Obscure language creates ambiguity about program tasks and processes which can cause miscommunication later on in the process.
  5. Step Five – The Project Overview — This should be in the first part of the scope of work. It should include a summary of the project and how it aligns with business objectives.
  6. Step Six – Project Deliverables — What is the project going to produce for the client? Is it a tangible object or is it a service? The scope of work should mention all of the items the project is going to deliver for the client. Each item should be defined and recognizable to the project manager as well as the client.
  7. Step Seven – The Technical Scope — What are the expectations and to what will the work be compared? Any technical considerations or methodologies should be mentioned here. Any general requirements, measurements, and specifications for the deliverable should be added to this part of the scope of work.
  8. Step Eight – The Task Scope — This section will likely be a summary of the requests and actions needed to meet the client’s expectations. The task scope will mention milestones and required deadline dates that specific tasks need to be completed for the whole project goal to be met. It will likely have subsections that include the specific milestones and deadlines.
  9. Step Nine – Project Timeline — If there is any part of the scope of work that should be visual, it should be this section of the scope of work. It is not a bad idea to include a Gantt Chart that details dates that correspond to the projected completion of certain phases of the project. If multiple deliverables are going to be prepared over the course of the project, the completion dates for each should also be included here.
  10. Step Ten – Scheduled Milestones — Projects are easier to digest when they are broken down into smaller timetables. Milestones are benchmarks that reveal if the project is staying on course. This should be included in the scope of work so that clients know when they can check in with the project manager to get an update on progress. This section is also a great place to include dates for meetings and time for project team members to prepare to update stakeholders on progress.
  11. Step Eleven – Logistics — How will payments be made? Are there any project limitations that clients and team members should be aware of? These details work best here. This section is also the location of any legal requirements or policies and procedures that have anything to do with the project. Any logistic information such as how deliverables will be sent to clients and how communication will happen between clients and program managers is included in this part of the document.
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The scope of work document should allow project managers the opportunity to rest knowing that the whole project has been thought out and planned for. This document also provides project managers the opportunity to have a detailed conversation with clients, so there are no surprises or miscommunications concerning expectations.

Part 3
Creating Scope of Work: 6 Best Practices

  1. State Any Buyer Duties

    Does the client need to deliver any items or information during any part of the process?

    This information should be stated throughout the scope of work, and the process for doing this should be laid out so that there is not any confusion.
    Clients should be aware of any responsibilities that are laid on them.

  2. Use Simple Sentence Structure

    While leaders need to avoid jargon, they also need to make sure that sentences are kept short and concise. Do not beat around the bush or use ambiguous language that clients do not understand.

    If a section only needs a paragraph, then do so without adding in superfluous words or phrases. The more fundamental the sentence structure, the easier it is to understand, so there is no miscommunication.

  3. Include as Many Visuals as Possible

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Whenever possible, add in a graph, infographic, photo, or other visual.
    Graphics can do what words cannot in many instances. They can aid understanding and make communication even easier between project managers and clients.

  4. Add a Negative Scope

    It is a great idea to include project limitations in the scope. It is easier for a project to veer off and become something that it was not typically intended to be. Therefore, leaders should include what is not going to be included in the project and where the project cannot go.

    It is not always possible to cover everything that is a limitation in this list, but it is still a good idea to have conversations with team members about the potential for scope creep.
    If there are any changes that clients want with the project, managers should refer back to the scope of work to discuss if it is feasible.

  5. Make Milestones a Priority

    Milestones give teams the opportunity to check their progress, update stakeholders, and meet with clients to discuss what has happened so far.

    Benchmarks are a great time to make any changes and ensure that timelines are staying on schedule.
    Milestones should be strategically planned to keep project teams on the path to meet deadlines. These can be simultaneously designed with meetings and client check-ins so that no one is left in the dark about progress.

  6. Take a Look at a Software System

    A robust and responsive software system is a great way to stay organized and can help craft an effective scope of work. It can be easy to become confused by having to use various programs to keep track of program scope.
    An all-in-one system will keep everything in one place and allow project managers the opportunity to stay on top of keeping in line with a scope.

The scope of work is intended to be the foundation of a project. If done correctly, it can keep miscommunication and project scope creep down to a minimum. The scope of work is essential to keeping clients in the loop on how deliverables will be constructed and when they can expect updates on project progress. When preparing to take on a project, the scope of work is a must for any well-organized project team.