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Keys to writing an effective statement of work

David Swift

by David Swift
Managing Director
RFP Solutions (Ottawa)

This procurement tip will provide you with the top issues that public sector managers should consider when writing a statement of work (SOW) for a services contract.

Choose the right type of SOW for your services contract RFP

Performance-based SOW

This type of SOW attempts to define the outcomes of the work and the performance standard that the contractor must meet. It also tries to avoid tying the bidders’ hands, by encouraging the development of innovative solutions and approaches within proposals. The performance-based SOW is ideal for many types of professional services contracts.

Detailed/design SOW

This type of SOW is highly prescriptive and tells the contractor how to do the work. It precisely details a plan/blueprint of the requirement and provides the contractor with specific parameters within which to conduct the work. The detailed/design SOW is ideal for architecture and engineering contracts, custom software development contracts and construction contracts.

Level of effort SOW

This type of SOW is ideal for requirements which are well-known and repetitive. The level of effort SOW is more quantity-based (i.e. by the hour, by the day, etc.), and is ideal for commodity type services, such as temporary help and data entry.

Ensure that your SOW is comprehensive and well organized

The following outline provides an overview of the common headings within a typical SOW based on a services contract RFP.

  1. Background
  2. Objective
  3. Definitions and applicable documents
  4. Description and scope of work
  5. Approach and methodology
  6. Deliverables and schedule
  7. Performance standards and quality measurement
  8. Departmental responsibilities and support
  9. Contractor responsibilities
  10. Risks and constraints
  11. Reporting and communication
  12. Service/resource categories
  13. Personnel replacement and substitution
  14. Language of work
  15. Security
  16. Location of work and travel
  17. Change management
  18. Special requirements
  19. Duration/period of agreement
  20. Departmental representative

Follow the SOW language conventions

The required writing/language style within a SOW is very precise. Ideally, SOW’s use generic (non-proprietary) terminology and references. Well written SOW’s also use present/active tense verbs (i.e. “will” or “shall”). The word “shall” is normally used to indicate a binding provision on the contractor (i.e. “The contractor shall”), whereas the word “will” is normally used as a declaration of future action by the buyer (i.e. “the Department will”). Well written SOW’s also use plain and simple language. They avoid jargon, vague terms and rambling sentences, they always spell out acronyms and they provide definitions for specific terms.

For more information on SOW and other RFP-related issues, contact David Swift at askdave@summitconnects.com.

For background details on David ’s expertise and RFP Solutions, click on the photo above.

If you have an issue that you would like us to cover, get in touch at newtips@summitconnects.com.



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