What Is A Scope Of Work And Why Does It Matter?

By knowing exactly what a Scope of Work is and what it should contain, you can get your budget estimate off to a strong start, setting your project up for success even before kick-off.

Content Sponsored By:

scope of work

Creating a Scope of Work (SOW) is the first and perhaps most important step in the budget estimation process. A detailed document explaining exactly what is expected of a team completing a construction contract, the Scope contains information that gives direction and purpose to every facet of a project—information project owners need to budget accurately.

A well-written Scope defines the who, what, when, where and how. The contractor and construction manager will reference the Scope for details concerning any and all parts of a project, from milestones to payment schedules, to unique requirements for any one contract. Because of the valuable information in the Scope, it is extremely important that it be created with the intent of being as accurate, crystal clear and thorough as it can be.

Gordian scope of workThere are multiple kinds of scopes that help make work clear for construction teams. These can include Architect-Engineer (AE) Scope, Context Scope and Construction Process Scope. Each scope type serves a unique purpose but leads to a common outcome: They give context to the project for the teams involved and expand on details that will affect the execution of the contract. Scope details usually include: explanations of the particular scope’s purpose; divisions of responsibilities between contractor and owner; expected project quality and methods of execution; project, reporting and payment schedules; and any contract-specific additional duties and evaluations.

The methods and sources you use to find and evaluate Scope content will directly impact the accuracy and expectations proposed within the document. References to plans and specifications are expected, and project site visits can offer an up-close look at tangible realities that could have been overlooked otherwise. In addition to including vendor information and agreement terms, collaborating with vendors to include any unique project information will also benefit teams. Third-party construction cost data can be handy as well to validate plans and costs and ensure all details are complete. RSMeans data from Gordian, for example, includes assembly models where construction tasks are grouped together and square foot models that provide an early idea of overall costs. This sort of data includes all the components and labor associated with complex jobs and is invaluable in the early planning stages of a project.

Bringing together all of these elements in a detailed SOW through careful, organized planning will help to ensure project deliverables are clear and work is completed efficiently. All of these elements come together to form a very detailed SOW, which means comfort for all parties involved thanks to knowing the job will be done efficiently thanks to careful planning. Preparation minimizes overruns, which not only keep clients happy, but also keep teams working efficiently, saving time and money. Less paperwork will add to less wasted time and will help in forging a stronger working relationship between building ownership, contractors and construction teams.

A clear, complete Scope of Work outlines the work to be done, how it will be completed and by whom, and the expected outcomes. By knowing exactly what a Scope is and what it should contain, you can get your budget estimate off to a strong start, setting your project up for success even before kick-off.

Learn more about how your Scope of Work can lead you to a realistic budget in this eBook.


  1. This is the most effective way I know to prevent “scope creep.”

    I’ve gone into more than one job based on the email equivalent of a verbal agreement, and they’ve usually worked out just fine.

    But every once in a while, a client will want “a little bit more,” then another little bit, then before you know it you’re doing work that you both know wasn’t part of what either of you had in mind when you made that non-written non-SOW agreement. Then, oh will you wish you had an SOW to refer back to! No matter how such a situation is resolved, you’ll be miserable until the job’s over and paid for.

Comments are closed.