A contract scope of work is a document that frames or outlines the work to be performed under a contract or subcontract. It is not an actual contract. Rather, it instead provides a series of sections detailing the expectations for a job or project.

Elements of the Scope of Work

The statement of work is an in-depth document that includes the following details:

  • Project goals.
  • Guidelines.
  • Deliverables.
  • Schedule.
  • Costs.

The scope section focuses on how the goals are attained. Initially, the scope of work begins with a statement of purpose, which is basically an overview of the job or contract. It can also include individual sections outlining specific deliverables. Within each section, there will be information about the task and the deadline when the task is to be completed.

The scope of work (SOW) explains the services that will be provided on a particular project and the work that will be provided for the project in a contractual agreement. The scope lists things such as:

  • Qualitative and quantitative performance requirements.
  • References specifications, if applicable to the project.
  • Notices and drawings, if construction or design-related.
  • Organizational charts for those assigned to work on the project.
  • Tools and equipment necessary for the job.
  • Identification of additional resources.

There should also be a payment section that breaks down the cost as a whole or per individual task. The provided information in each section ensures both parties are aware of their responsibilities regarding the job or project, the division of tasks, and the methods to be used on the project.

An example of the scope section involving a software development project could include steps for "develop the application" and "test application," while the tasks and requirements section would detail and break down the tasks relative to the processes such as "code design for the first module relevant to the application."

Creating a Scope of Work

The scope of work should be clearly defined with accurate and unambiguous information. It should be contractually sound as well as unbiased and non-prejudiced toward respondents. It should encourage innovative solutions to the job or project requirements and allow for reasonable free and open competition.

Guidelines for Forming a Scope of Work

The following are general guidelines for creating a SOW:

  • A preliminary statement summarizing the objectives of the procurement solicitation.
  • A historical procurement summary of the goods or services.
  • Sufficient information/details on the tasks to be performed, the required deliverables, which identify physical, environmental, functionality, and quality characteristics to include output, power capacity, size, and weight.
  • For goods, this may include expected turnaround.
  • A start and end date for the services or the delivery date for goods.
  • A deliverables schedule noting when and where goods will be performed.
  • Provide a location where the SOW will be performed.
  • A breakdown of the equipment and supplies that the contractor needs.
  • Information about required state and federal regulations and industry standards that apply.
  • Qualification requirements of the contractor(s), such as required level of experience or specific licenses.
  • Defined performance standards.
  • Payment requirements.
  • Clearly state/define other considerations or requirements.
  • Detail what is considered a mandatory provision and what is considered a preferred provision.

Defining the Scope of the Process

When creating the SOW, write plainly. Avoid clichés and acronyms and explain all terms, conditions, and compliance obligations clearly. Provide a consistent methodology for determining if all requirements have been met and avoid assumptions. If any are made, they must be clearly stated in the scope of work.

Product Requirements

Clearly define the product requirements (also called the product scope). This details the functions and features.

Process Requirements

The process requirements describe the interaction between the people and product and how the product interacts with business processes.

Involve Stakeholders

Delivering a project successfully requires that the right stakeholders be involved at various stages of the project scope.


Know what is considered out-of-scope for a project. This means documenting what processes/steps will not be done to avoid assumptions and confusion.


To avoid disagreements and changes to the scope of the project by stakeholders, it is important that the client and agency have strict management processes in place. In this way, once the scope is defined, it cannot be changed without appropriate functions taking place to change the process.

If you need help with a contract scope of work, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.