Project Statement of Work

By Adrienne Watt and bpayne

The statement of work (SOW), sometimes called the scope of work, is a definition of a project’s parameters—factors that define a system and determine its behavior—and describes the work done within the boundaries of the project, and the work that is outside the project boundaries.

The SOW is typically a written document that defines what work will be accomplished by the end of the project—the deliverables of the project. The project scope defines what will be done, and the project management plan defines how the work will be accomplished.

No template works for all projects. Some projects have a detailed scope of work, and some have a short summary document. The quality of the scope is measured by the ability of the project manager and project stakeholders to develop and maintain a common understanding of the products or services the project will deliver.

The size and detail of the project scope is related to the complexity profile of the project. A more complex project often requires a more detailed and comprehensive scope document.

According to the Project Management Institute (2008), the scope statement should include the following components:

  • description of the scope
  • product acceptance criteria
  • project deliverables
  • project exclusions
  • project constraints
  • project assumptions

The scope document is the basis for agreement by all parties. A clear project scope document is also critical to managing change on a project. Since the project scope reflects what work will be accomplished on the project, any change in expectations that is not captured and documented creates an opportunity for confusion.

One of the most common trends in project management is the incremental expansion in the project scope. This trend is labeled scope creep. Scope creep threatens the success of a project because the small increases in scope require additional resources that were not in the plan.

Increasing the scope of the project is a common occurrence, and adjustments are made to the project budget and schedule to account for these changes. Scope creep occurs when these changes are not recognized or not managed. The ability of a project manager to identify potential changes is often related to the quality of the scope documents.


Project Management Institute, Inc. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (4th ed.). Project Management Institute, Inc.

Licenses and Attributions

Chapter 4: Framework for Project Management by bpayne and Adrienne Watt from Project Management is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. © 2014, Adrienne Watt. UMGC has modified this work and it is available under the original license. Download this book for free at