Regardless of the industry, many businesses and freelancers frequently undertake new projects. Managing a new project and maintaining steady progress through every step of the process can be challenging, and preparation beforehand is crucial.
Creating a scope of work document is essential during this preparation. The budget and timeline of your project is affected by its scope and, therefore, maintaining your project scope is crucial to project success. Here at Indy, we aim to make freelancing simple. In this article, we'll explain what exactly a scope of work is, the benefits of creating one, and how to write one for any project.
Scope of Work vs Statement of Work
A statement of work is a well-detailed legal document that explicitly details a project's plan and expected deliverables, typically including:
- Project introduction and overview
- Project objectives
- Scope of work
- Estimated or final costs
- Payment terms
Whereas, a scope of work is a section in the statement of work, and typically explains what the project will include and exclude, project objectives, requirements, and an outline of how these will be fulfilled.
The typical requirements of a good scope of work document include:
- An outline of the project goals and tasks
- A clear project schedule that works for both parties
- A list of the project deliverables
- A list of the project's major stages
In summary, a scope of work is a formal document that clearly outlines the work you need to accomplish for a certain project.
Some clients require a statement of work (in which the scope of work is included), while others may only require a scope of work detailing what must be done in order for the project to be considered successful and complete.
Benefits of Writing a Scope of Work
A scope of work is an incredibly useful project management tool that ensures that all parties are on the same page from day one. Here are some of the benefits of a scope of work document:
Communication between clients and contractors is important no matter the industry. The purpose of a scope of work document is to encourage collaboration between project team members and clients on objectives, milestones, and schedules.
This establishes the project's tone from day one and guarantees openness, efficient communication, and most importantly, that all partners are in agreement.
Tracking the timeline of your project
Whether you are an independent contractor or working within a team, tracking your timeline can help you keep on top of your project's progress and identify any potential risks that might affect the success of the project. Tracking your timeline also helps to prevent backlogs and conflicts with other ongoing projects.
Misunderstandings within project teams are not uncommon. This typically occurs as a result of improperly defined project goals and expectations. A scope of work document reduces this risk.
This work document allows all parties involved an opportunity to access all of the project's information and have a clear understanding of what is required from whom and when.
As a scope of work document serves as an agreement between both parties involved, this also eliminates the risks regarding project requirements as it's a written record of the working agreement.
Components of a Scope of Work Document
What information you include in your scope of work is dependent on the industry you work in. However, there are several important details that must be included no matter the project. These are:
- Adoption Plan
How to Write a Scope of Work: Step by Step Guide
Now that we have covered what a scope of work document is and an overview of what it entails, let's go through a step by step guide on how to write one for any project.
Step 1: Introduce the project
Your scope of work begins with an introduction, as with any formal document. This section provides an overview of the project, its purpose, and problem statement.
Some key points you want to include are:
- The name of the project, the client, and team involved
- What the project entails - a brief overview of the work (e.g. designing and developing a website for a new banking company)
- Project goals
- Problem statement - this is the problem the project aims to address (e.g. users need secure access to their online banking)
You may want to include any terminologies and definitions in this section, if you feel they are crucial for the work. For example, if your scope of work will contain technical terms unknown to anyone outside of your industry, make sure to explain briefly what these mean. This will help prevent confusion.
In summary, this section of the document aims to focus on the problem that the project is meant to address. Additionally, it should explain how the undertaking of the project will lead to the problem's execution.
Since introductions often don't last longer than a paragraph, try to be as concise as possible when writing this section.
Step 2: Summarize the objectives
The aim of this section is to briefly summarize the project's objective that aligns with the client's needs and expectations. Typically, this is only one line, and requires no explanation or solution - that's what the rest of the scope is for.
For example, using the scenario used in the introduction, your objective summary may look something like this:
"Develop a website for [client] that offers secure information storage as provided by [contractor]."
If you need help defining your project's objective, you can use SMART criteria, a tool used for goal setting:
What are SMART goals?
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Here's a breakdown:
Specific (well defined) - consider using the five "W"s to identify specific goals:
- Who is involved in this goal?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Where is this goal to be achieved?
- When do I want to achieve this goal?
- Why do I want to achieve this goal?
Measurable (goal with aims) - to make a goal measurable, consider the following:
- How much?
- How will I know if I have reached my goal?
- When will I know my goal has progressed?
Achievable (attainable) - to determine if the goal is achievable, consider the following:
- Do I have the skills and resources to achieve this goal? If not, what do I need?
Realistic (within reach) - your goal is likely realistic if you believe it is achievable.
Timely (with a target) - setting a deadline for your goal creates urgency and, therefore, sparks motivation to achieve the goal.
Using SMART criteria to identify your project's purpose and goals is an effective method to define the objectives.
Step 3: Describe the actual scope of work
In this section, you need to list all of the main tasks and activities required to deliver your project objectives. This includes milestones.
Milestones are important stages in your project's timeline, such as development, implementation, and testing (e.g. a content writer may want to include an editing stage, or a videographer may include a filming stage).
Working from your clients' requirements, and your projects goals and objectives, your main tasks should cover the most important stages of the development of your project.
For example, using the website production example listed in the above sections, you may include:
- The initial design of the website based on clients' requirements of user friendly functionality
- Initial development
- Review from the client
- Final development
- Internal review and revisions
The second part of this section is to specify the required resources, skills, and tools for each task. You will also need to explain how the tasks will be executed, monitored, and controlled.
Some key points you may want to address include:
- Resources - the tools, equipment, and skills required for the project. You also want to include the estimated costs and fees with each resource.
- Methods - the procedures and strategies necessary to complete tasks and milestones (e.g. if you're writing SEO content, you may want to include your strategy for incorporating keywords into the article).
Step 4: Detail the project tasks
A scope of work document should also include individual tasks. These can be for yourself or team members (if you run a team for this project). These are tasks that need to be completed in order for the project to move to the next milestone.
Essentially, these are sub-tasks for your main tasks and milestones listed in the section above. For example, using the same scenario as above, project tasks for the first milestone could include:
- Assess all of the client's requirements
- Create a mock-up design
- Submit for review
- Implement changes
All of these tasks are required before starting the next milestone and, therefore, must be listed in this section of your scope of work.
Make sure to include all individual or team tasks in this section, and assign responsibilities and deadlines for each one. You will also need to include the estimated time, cost, and effort for each task and subtask in this section.
Use a work breakdown structure or a Gantt chart to visualize the task hierarchy and dependencies
Whether you're working on a large or small project, breaking your milestones and main tasks into subtasks can be a frustrating process - especially if you are managing team members with different responsibilities.
Thankfully, there are several project management tools available to help visually order your tasks and their dependencies.
Let's go through the two most popular methods - a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Gantt charts:
A Gantt chart visually represents your project's deliverables and tasks. Each individual task is displayed as a horizontal bar, beginning at the start date and ending at the deadline (the length of the bar represents how long you have to complete the task).
Gantt charts create visual timelines so you can easily determine your project's progress, and the amount of work remaining. This helps keep all parties involved on the same page, and ensures that individual tasks won't overlap.
Some benefits of using a Gantt chart include:
- Your entire project in one place - Gantt charts visually display your entire project objectives, so you'll know immediately if you are missing anything.
- They're simple to grasp - from clients to contractors and team members, anyone working on a project can easily view the key points and understand what's going on.
- You can easily track your project's progress
- Maintain project transparency - A Gantt chart reduces the risk of confusion and misunderstandings by allowing every member to see how their work affects the rest of the team. This encourages communication between team members and improves overall teamwork.
There are several templates available for Gantt charts, depending on project size and industry.
Work breakdown structures
A work breakdown structure is a project management tool that takes a step-by-step approach to completing tasks and large projects. You break down the project into smaller components to organize and define the entire project scope.
The work breakdown structure separates the project into levels. Level one is the totality of the project, such as the project overview. Then each level below breaks the project down into further detail.
For example, if you're creating a work breakdown structure for a new website, level one would be "Website for [client]". Level two then breaks this down further, incorporating your milestones and individual tasks (e.g. Level 2 - secure website domain, design layout for website, etc.)
Each level continues breaking down the project elements into further detail.
Typically, there are six steps to creating a work breakdown structure:
1. Define the project
2. Set project boundaries - what is and isn't included in your work breakdown structure
3. Identify project deliverables
4. Define Level 1 elements. Remember the 100% rule while creating the Level 1 deliverables.
5. Break down each of the Level 1 elements
6. Identify team members - identify the team members responsible for each element.
There are several templates available for work breakdown structures, depending on project size and industry.
Step 5: State the project schedule
This section is the timeline of your project, and you have to make it clear. Your schedule should include every stage of your project - just make sure it is based on the task estimates and is realistic for all parties involved. Having a clear schedule and timeline helps you track the project's progress and ensure it is running smoothly.
If your milestones and individual tasks have deadlines, make sure to include them in this section also. Using project management tools such as a Gantt chart, calendar, or project management software can be incredibly useful for this section.
Step 6: List the project deliverables
Whether you provide a service or product, your scope of work document should clearly define each deliverable, their quality standards, and the rationale behind them. Deliverables are the outcomes, products, or results that the project should deliver once completed.
There are two types of deliverables:
Internal - submitted to your own project team members or to a collaborating department if necessary (such as initial designs, progress reports, etc.)
External - submitted to parties outside of your company, including clients (such as final designs or products).
If possible, provide samples or examples of your deliverables.
Step 7: Specify an adoption plan
Including an adoption plan isn't a requirement, but you may choose to include this information if you feel it to be helpful. An adoption plan explains how the project deliverables will be implemented or used by the client or end-users.
For example, you can explain how a new website will be made public once the project completes, or how a new application will be rolled out in the market.
It could look something like this:
"Website for [client] will be ready for launch once the project completes on [date]. The website goes live on [date], and the website is to operate in accordance with project objectives by that day".
The adoption plan is usually towards the end of your scope of work. You will also need to explain any training, maintenance, or support required for your deliverables, and address any potential issues or challenges associated with your adoption plan in this section.
Step 8: State project management roles
The final section of your scope of work details the roles and responsibilities of each project team member and stakeholders involved. Explain who handles certain administrative tasks or managerial roles, and the communication methods and frequency among project participants.
This section also details how you will monitor the project. This includes how you will resolve any issues, changes, or risks that arise during the project.
Indy Tools for Managing the Scope of Work
At Indy, we aim to make freelancing simple. There are several ways Indy can help you with your scope of work:
- Our Calendar tool allows you to easily schedule meetings, track time, and see your deadlines. It also syncs with your Google Calendar, so you can keep up to date with everything!
- Our Tasks tool helps you easily manage all of your tasks. Filter, search, and pin your tasks on visual boards and lists that also connect with your calendar.
- Use Chats to directly send messages or share files with clients. Instead of sending multiple emails, our Chats app keeps the conversation flowing and strengthens communication with your clients and project members.
No matter the industry, Indy can help you manage your project all on one platform. Sign-up now and try it for yourself!
Regardless of the industry, managing a new project and maintaining steady progress through every step of the process can be challenging. Creating a scope of work can help you effectively manage any project. If done correctly, it may assist you in ensuring clear client communication, supervising your whole team, and managing the scope of your project.
For more guidance and examples of a scope of work, you can check out our scope of work template.