Business Services, Clutch Report

Why a Scope of Work is Essential to Finding the Right Service Provider

July 30, 2020

by Hannah Hicklen

Finding the right service provider can be difficult, but a detailed scope of work (SOW) can assure you and your partners are on the same page. Outlining your scope of work ahead of time will help keep your project on schedule and on budget, avoid miscommunication, and ensure the deliverables meet your needs. 

Updated 06/05/2023

Whether your team is ready to tackle its next big project, or you need support to deal with an existing challenge, finding the right service provider is key to setting your project up for success.

However, finding the perfect partner is easier said than done. A successful engagement is defined by a variety of factors, such as the quality of the results, vendor timeliness, and their ability to adhere to a budget.

With countless qualified agencies available, how do you know which one is the right partner for you?

What is Scope of Work? 

A scope of work document is a project planning tool intended to clearly lay out project goals, project milestones, and project deliverables.

Misinterpretations about project requirements and specific tasks are super common during outsourced collaborations. These miscommunications create scope creep, which is the result of poor scope management. To avoid this and engage in a successful project, everything from the amount of time allotted to an in-depth work breakdown structure may be necessary.

This can all sound overwhelming, but putting in the work upfront is key. Plus, a SOW document will keep stakeholders, team members, and the outsourced project team all on the same page through the process. 

As you begin to contact vendors, the most important task you should complete is to outline a scope of work that includes:

  • Services a vendor will provide
  • Performance requirements
  • Division of work
  • Budget
  • Timeline

You can easily find templates online that help you organize the details of your project.

Statement of Work Template

Source: HubSpot

This template effectively divides the project into key milestones, the due date of each task, and the fee associated with each deliverable.

By outlining the scope of a project ahead of time, you can assure you and your partners are on the same page and can provide the following benefits:

  • Helping vendors provide a fair and accurate cost estimate
  • Ensuring requirements for deliverables and technologies meet your needs
  • Setting clear expectations early to prevent miscommunication and disagreements later
  • Providing a timeline helps to keep the project on track

Budget Details Outlined in Scope of Work Help Vendors Provide Fair & Accurate Cost Estimates

As you start a project, your budget will help you rule out some vendors on the spot.

If a potential partner has the best reviews and qualifications but gives you a quote that’s double your budget, they’re not the right partner for you.

Don’t feel discouraged. You can still find the perfect vendor for your project with a reasonable cost estimate.

A lot of factors go into determining how much a project will cost including:

  • Number of people on the team
  • Time to complete the project
  • Types of technology you plan to use

By sharing exactly what you want to accomplish in your scope of work, a vendor can assess your requirements and determine if they can complete the project for the price you want. From there, you can adjust your requirements or select a different vendor.

By creating a budget and allocating expenses ahead of time, you reduce the risk that the project’s cost gets out of hand. Depending on the size of your project, a slight miscalculation or oversight can cost you thousands.

You may prevent unexpected costs as the project progresses by outlining the budget ahead of time. As you start development, you should know exactly where your money will go so you’re not surprised by new expenses.

Determining Deliverables Ensures the Final Product Will Meet Your Needs

The scope of work is essentially a list of expectations; making it detailed in your scope can be key to a successful partnership.

When creating a project description, outline your “must haves” and “nice to haves,” or features you’d like to have but aren’t a priority.  

These lists should be extensive, such as your expectations for product features and designs, which tech stack to use, and metrics you plan to track.

With this information, potential partners can tell you if they have the expertise needed to get the job done and guide you towards additional features and strategies that could improve the results.

Every service provider has different resources and strengths, so acknowledging your expectations will help identify which partner will help you meet your objectives.

For example, pretend you’re comparing two potential service providers for an iOS app development project.

Company A offers a great price but only has 1 or 2 iOS developers. Company B is more expensive but would provide a team of developers that specializes in iOS.

While Company A can get the job done, Company B can complete the project more quickly. In this case, you’ll need to determine if you would rather have an efficient partner, or a team that can get your project done for a more reasonable price.

In addition to helping you determine which vendor can satisfy your needs best, a list of deliverables can help potential partners plan ahead, schedule, and identify what resources they’ll need to accomplish the project.

As a result, they’ll be able to provide you with a more accurate cost estimate and project timeline.

Outlining Expectations Early Prevents Miscommunication & Disagreements Later On

As you start to narrow your search, you should determine how you plan to communicate with your partner.

A project is a collaborative effort, and how well you work together with a vendor can make a big difference in the outcome of your project. How a vendor communicates during your evaluation may help you to determine a preferred partner.

While some companies assign a project manager or team leader, others expect you to communicate directly with the team.

Some vendors communicate directly with the team to cut down time to implement changes and provide an immediate answer to questions. Others prefer a primary point of contact is to go to when they have questions and can centralize communication.

Either way, knowing how you plan to correspond with a service provider may limit miscommunication.

You can discuss whether you’d prefer to receive updates by phone, conference call, or if you want to use a project management software to document the project’s progress.

Asana board

Source: Asana

Platforms such as Asana can help you track each task during development and increase efficiency.

Finally, confirm who has the authority to approve any adjustments to the project scope. If your service provider has a question, a problem comes up, or they have an idea that can improve the project as a whole, they need to be able to contact you as well.

This may prevent delays and ensure they don’t proceed without proper confirmation.

Creating a Timeline Keeps the Project on Track

Depending on how important your delivery date is to your project, a timeline can make or break a successful partnership.

Some vendors have more resources and can finish projects faster than others. While one provider could complete a project in a few weeks, another may take a few months.

While choosing between service providers, consider how important the timeline is to you and how long you expect the project to take.

In addition to making sure they produce deliverables on time, the timeline guides your partners throughout the project and helps them plan ahead. It outlines key phases, milestones, and when certain deliverables should be ready.

This will help you monitor progress throughout the engagement and encourage the team to work efficiently. 

A schedule can also have an impact on the team’s size, what resources you use, and cost. Often, the more quickly you need to complete the project, the more people you will need. Additional resources result in additional costs.

Including a timeline in your scope of work ensures that you’re on the same page with your service provider moving forward.

Free Scope of Work Template 

Download the clear scope of work template to break down individual tasks, payment schedule, list of tasks required, and the phases of the project with no sweat.

Clutch scope of work free template

Download Clutch’s Scope of Work Template

A Scope of Work Can Help You Find the Right Vendor & Set You Up for Success

As you consider different service providers for an upcoming project, a scope of work can help you narrow the list and help you find the perfect partner.

By outlining the details of your project ahead of time, potential partners can provide a more accurate cost estimate and help you determine who the best fit is for your project.

A scope of work also can help you identify which partners are able to meet your expectations and deliver everything you need. Each firm has different strengths. One may be better suited for your project based on their resources and experience.

To ensure a strong partnership and smooth engagement, plan how you’re going to communicate with your partners ahead of time. Some companies may stand out as outstanding collaborators.

Finally, establish a timeline. Not only will it help keep the project on track but it may also affect the team, resources, and overall cost.

With a well-planned scope of work, you’ll find the perfect service provider for your project.

Connect with Clutch to consult on your project idea, create a project brief or to write a Request for Proposal.

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