An SOW is a statement of work document that defines the purpose, goals and requirements for a web development project. With small website projects, you might not create an SOW, but large projects require specific documentation to ensure success. A good SOW can help you avoid disputes and cancelled projects, which usually turn into bad reviews and loss of money for both you and your customers. This article gives you six tips for creating an effective SOW.
When your web development customer wants a website, he usually has an idea in his head that must be fleshed out by a web designer and developer. It’s not easy for a customer to describe what he wants on paper, but creating an effective statement of work (SOW) communicates the website project, what needs to be done, what is expected from both parties and the overall purpose of the project. The idea seems simple, but ineffective SOWs have been the fundamental grounds of development disputes and failed projects. Before you begin work, here are some basic tips for creating a good SOW.
Define a Purpose
What is the purpose of the website? Why does the customer want to have a website? The most basic answer is “to make money,” but most businesses have more than monetary goals. Website owners want to inform customers, market products, create a better buying experience and bring expertise to the web. The purpose of the site should be clearly defined and placed at the top of the SOW.
Define the Major Deliverables
With small website projects, the major deliverable is usually just a workable website with basic functionality. Big sites have several business functions and logic that must be included in the final product. Any major part of the website should be clearly defined. Graphs, charts and flowcharts are usually a part of this section, because it helps the developer understand business flow.
For instance, your website project might include a front-end blog with a back-end API that takes orders from third-party sites. These two major deliverables should be a part of the SOW.
Describe Any Resources Needed to Complete the Job
It usually takes more than one developer to complete the project, and you probably need server resources for testing and quality assurance. The costs associated with this process are passed on to the customer, so make sure you properly calculate costs necessary for the project. These costs include servers, QA people, coders, designers and any miscellaneous hardware or software.
Give a Timetable for Each Phase or Task
Customers like to see phases of your project. It helps them see tangible evidence that you’re working hard towards completion. A timetable is one of the most difficult parts of an SOW to adhere too. Unforeseen obstacles can completely shift a timetable and make every task late. You want to adhere to a deadline, but you don’t want to make an impossible target for each phase release. Always give yourself at least 10% more time than what you expect it will take to complete a task. Some developers add an extra 20% to the timetable.
Add Payments to Milestones
Each task or milestone should have a payment associated with it. If the final task is completed on time and the project completes successfully, you could add in a bonus. Some developers ask for a partial payment upfront and then add partial payments for each successful phase of the project. Some contracts deduct a fee if the milestone isn’t met on time. Always create a well-defined SOW when you deal with payments, bonuses and fees that tie to these milestones.
Create Clear Business Requirements for the Site Design
A website encompasses a number of business requirements defined by the customer. You must document these business requirements in the SOW. These requirements are then used to create the website, and you can use the documented information in case there is ever a dispute. When you accept the SOW, make sure you clearly understand business requirements and there is no ambiguity.
These six steps are the starting point for an effective SOW. Always take care to create a well-defined project structure, good business requirement explanations, and clear project goals for developers and your customers. Clear SOWs lead to successful projects and reduce the chance of a project dispute.