I first learned about statements of work—or scopes of work, as some people call them—when I worked for one of the multinational computer manufacturers in Texas. Except they called them SoWs, and I wondered what we were doing with pigs. You can take the boy out of the country….
A statement of work, which I will breakdown and call a SoW from here on, is a document that details your expectations from your employees or contractors for a project. The more detailed, the better. We’ve learned the hard way that contractors will exploit any ambiguity to their own advantage, regardless of which side of the project pyramid it’s on.
That said, it is possible to get too detailed. One of the secrets of a good project manager is knowing how to avoid spending more time, effort, and money managing a project than doing the project. Even so, you want as much detail in the SoW upfront as you can manage. You can always choose to scale back on the level of detail you maintain.
If you can, it also helps to include pictures, so your contractors know what you’re aiming at. If you don’t have pictures that look like what you want, borrow from magazines and projects you’ve seen on the Web.