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Back to the Statement of Work

Michael Asner

by Michael Asner, the RFP Mentor

The Statement of Work is critical to the success of any procurement process. It is, however, a neglected area. This tip identifies SOW resources on the web. It is not comprehensive, but only a beginning. If you know of other resources that should be included, let me know at institute@rfpmentor.com

Different types of SOWs

There are many sources of information about SOWs in Canada and the United States. A highly readable document from NASA defines three types of statements of work:

  • Design and detail;
  • Level of effort; and
  • performance-based.

Design/detail statements of work tell the contractor how to do the work. If the government specifies the wrong tasks, or defines tasks improperly, the supplier still gets paid.

Level-of-effort SOWs are used to get additional human resources, sometimes very skilled and educated ones. The real deliverable under this type if an hour of work. If the engineer consumes the 100 hours and has not finished the job, the buyer can either extend the contract or hire another engineer.

Performance-based statements of work are the preferred method of contracting for complex combinations of good and services. The contractors are given the freedom to determine how to meet the specifications and performance objectives set out by the government. When the results meet or exceed these objectives, the contractor gets paid.

What are the key elements and characteristics of a good SOW?

The quality, completeness and specificity of the statement of work often determine the success of the RFP process. Well-written SOWs for performance-based work contain specific and clearly defined contract goals. They state the requirements in terms of desired or required results. Good SOWs have clearly defined deliverables and mandatory requirements limited to the actual minimum needs.

  • Written description of the work to be performed or product to be purchased
  • Includes definitions of items, specifications and warrantees
  • May include pricing, delivery schedules, installation requirements, acceptance test procedures
  • Outlines responsibilities of each party and prior conditions to performance
  • Should discuss any requirements unique to the business relationship between parties

Resources come to the rescue!

In searching the Internet, we found a number of different types of resources:

  • Templates
  • Guides and manuals
  • Training



This Ottawa-based consulting firm does a lot of RFP training for the federal government and has provided tips in this space before. They have published a 12-page SOW guide which is accompanied by a 6-page example.


This site, of primary interest to IT project managers, has some free SOW information. Go to the site and register; it’s free. Do a search on “statement of work”. There is a 14-page statement of work template for consulting services that turned up as the third entry!

Guides and manuals


This 34-page manual from NASA is more complex than others. It contains some extremely useful information, such as the document review checklist, that can be transferred to jurisdictions both large and small.


The Request for Proposal Handbook

In this volume I have outlined the entire RFP process with a special section on statements of work. The guide includes best practices information, examples and checklist that can be used by experienced buyers as well as the less knowledgeable.



How To Develop an Effective Statement of Work: A Best Practices Training CD by Terry Davenport

Many procurements fail, are unnecessarily complex, or result in complaints and litigation because the Statement of Work was deficient. Terry Davenport knows the key to success is simple: prepare a SOW that balances functionality with budgetary requirements, policy restrictions and the legal issues. This seminar will show you the step-by-step process that leads to an effective statement of work.

Terry Davenport is a retired state purchasing officer with over 20 years experience and a nationally recognized information technology (IT) procurement expert. He has written, conducted and supervised hundreds of procurements for the State of New Mexico. Terry is the author of the New Mexico Request for Proposals Procurement Guide, a document that has gained widespread acceptance as a national 'best practice'. In 1999 Terry demonstrated his knowledge and skill by planning, organizing, writing, conducting and administering the national computer equipment contracts sponsored by the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA).

This package includes a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation narrated by Terry, 60-page resource guide, a license for $195 US. Attend Terry’s Webcast November 17th at www.rfpmentor.com/webcast.html to train your entire team!

If you have questions for Michael Asner about SOWs or any part of the RFP process contact him at askmichael@summitconnects.com.

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



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