Statement of work and scope of work, both commonly abbreviated as SOW, are often confused, interchanged terms. And, as straightforward as each sound, they’re often anything but easy to write. Make it too vague and broad and it leaves room for interpretation error; make it too convoluted with detail and it leaves room for the reader to get confused and distracted. Either case can lead to fiscal, safety, efficiency, and legal woes, especially when freelance workers are involved.
Statement of Work and Scope of Work: What is SOW?
What is a statement of work (SOW)? Effectively, it defines the specific goals for a project; what needs to be delivered, and the performance criteria. This is often confused with the scope of work as they’re both abbreviated to SOW. With the scope of work, you’re looking at all the specific tasks that a particular project manager has to perform to reach all the objectives. While both are important, the statement of work is the more critical of the two.
It’s not uncommon to see both terms abbreviated as SOW, but they’re actually two different entities.
The statement of work is a formal document used by project managers to broadly describe the project scope of work to be completed, responsibilities, and expectations within a particular project. It’s a commonplace tool for the management of vendor and freelance work on a project.
The scope of work is an element within that statement which more narrowly defines what work is to be done by the employees or contractor.
Think of it like the difference between retinol and vitamin A. Technically, they’re different compounds, but they’re used interchangeably because consumed vitamin A becomes retinol in the body. The scope is consumed within the statement and becomes one and the same.
The SOW as a whole is a planning tool that allows project managers to develop performance-based work relationships with vendors because all aspects of performance and subsequent assessment are laid out upfront.
It can be a standalone process OR written in conjunction with an RFP, or request for proposal, asking the freelancer to respond with a proposal.