What is Scope of Work?

Definition: Scope of work is a written document containing a detailed description of a job contract. This term usually refers to the section of a contract or agreement where all expected tasks and deliverables are explained with the purpose of aligning expectations between both parties.

What Does Scope of Work Mean?

The scope of work, which is commonly known as the SOW, has become a common term in the project management field. This is often a section of the contract signed with a contractor. Having a complete and clear scope of work before initiating the project allows accomplishing project goals under the expected timeline and reducing potential misunderstandings and conflicts.

The scope of work facilitates shared vision among the participants. It should exist whenever any job is agreed upon but it is certainly indispensable as work complexity and difficulty to describe physically the deliverables are higher or the time required to fulfill the tasks is longer. It should be written with clear terms that minimize ambiguity and misconceptions. Ideally, it should include a brief, general description of the projected work, any specific methodology, process or tool that the contractor is expected to apply during the work, detailed and well explained deliverables and deadlines for each of them.

Precise information about the remuneration must be included too. If applicable, the document might also describe how the project manager will relate and communicate with the contractor along with any other legal consideration.


Ms. Mary Tolson is a young professional that participated for the very first time as project manager in a consultant firm. She managed four freelancers that designed a new custom information system for a client. The four contracts signed with the free lancers had a detailed and complete scope of work for each of them. The SOW established that assigned tasks should be delivered within 24 to 48 hours and that compensation will be based on hours worked per item.

One of the participants complained about very tight deadlines and then some of the specific dates were slightly moved forward. The project was successfully accomplished and Ms. Tolson could see the benefit of having a good scope of work previously agreed with contractors.

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