Essential Contract Documents – Statements of Work

I have been experiencing a frustrating time during the last several weeks dealing with a couple of vendors who don’t want to provide a Statement of Work (SOW)) along with the other contract documents in order to finalize the deals. They keep coming back with something that is less than what I asked for and something that is not in the client’s best interest. Essentially, they are asking for the contract to be signed on a handshake deal promising that they will do everything necessary to get the projects done without putting specific details in writing. Sound familiar?

Some vendors are willing to comply with the spirit of a contract and will go out of their way to make you happy, and others will barely comply with the letter of the contract. If you haven’t dealt with the vendor before, getting the Statement of Work right is essential. Even if you have worked with the vendor before and have a great relationship, spelling out the project details and expectations is a good idea.

A Statement of Work (SOW) is an essential component of a contract. The SOW needs to define the 6 W’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How Much

Although it is possible to use the original Proposal and Statement of Work from the RFP response as the SOW, sometimes the goals, objectives and the Scope of Work have changed significantly since the publication of the original RFP. In that case, an SOW that agrees with all the contract documents is required. The contract must define which document takes precedence in case there is a discrepancy. In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be any discrepancies. However, in Statements of Work that may run hundreds of pages, it is a possibility.

In both the RFP and in the SOW, I like to see the information in a tabular format so you can use those documents as a checklist during project implementation. There is a high probability that the Project Manager for implementation will not have been involved in the procurement process and subsequent negotiations, so having all the deliverables and expectations in a clear format for the Project Manager is important.

The SOW should define how payments are tied to formal acceptance of specific deliverables and milestones. In the specific cases I am dealing with at the moment, I am looking for specifications of onsite vs. offsite work with a specific schedule of when they will be onsite, for how long, who they will interact with, and what they will achieve during those visits.

There are many resources available for writing a solid Statement of Work. GSA has a resource at and the Canadian Government has published a resource here at:

Copyright 2015, Jeffrey Morgan

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Jeffrey Morgan is the President of e-volve Enterprise Management Services and has provided independent consulting services since 1993.