5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 4: Project Statement of Work

1. Project Statement of Work–Introduction

The first process in the Integration Knowledge Area is 4.1 Develop Project Charter. The Project Statement of Work is the first input to that process. Normally I would not devote an entire blog post to a single input, tool, technique, or output to a process, because there are a total of 614 of them in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, and it would take me almost two years to cover them all at the rate of one per day.

However, the Project Statement of Work is such an important input that I am making an exception and devoting this entire blog post to it. I will do this by answering the questions: What is it? How does it fit in the flow of PM processes? Who creates it? How does it work with together with the other inputs of the process 4.1? How is it related to procurements?

2. Project Statement of Work (SOW)—What is it?

The best way I can describe the Project Statement of Work is using the analogy of planting a garden. Imagine getting a seed that you want to plant. A seed sitting there in your hand isn’t going to do very much. It has to be watered before it will germinate and become a seedling. The seedling is then planted in the ground, where it sprouts and then starts to grow when it receives sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Of course, proper gardening requires that you check it periodically to see if there are any adverse conditions such as pests and diseases. If the plant is healthy and you have been a diligent gardener, you can then finally harvest the plant.

If you think of the project as a plant, then the Project Statement of Work is like the “seed” of a project. It contains the blueprint (analogous to the plant DNA) for the project in a very small package. The project is then “watered” by taking the input of the Project Statement of Work and turning in into the Project Charter, which takes that seed of an idea for a project and gives enough high-level detail for it to be approved by a sponsor.

Then the seed becomes a seedling and it ready to be planted; in this case, the project is given a green light and a complete Project Scope Statement is created is created in the Planning Process. This gives enough detail for work to start being done on the project. The sprouting of the plant above the ground and its growth is analogous to the Executing Process, the careful watching for adverse conditions such as pests and diseases is analogous to the Monitoring & Controlling process, and the harvesting of the plant is analogous to the Closing Process.

3. Project Statement of Work (SOW)—How does it fit into the flow of PM Processes?

The Project Statement of Work or SOWs the seed or kernel of the idea for the project, and is one of the inputs to Process 4.1 Develop Project Charter during the Initiating Process Group. In the case of procurements, the SOW can also come from the Agreements input. It is one of the ingredients, together with the business need, and the strategic reason for the project (listed as “cost-benefit analysis” in the chart below) that make up the second input called the Business Case.

1. Project Statement of Work (SOW) Description of product, service or result to be delivered by project, the business need, and the strategic plan
2. Business Case Ties together the elements of the SOW (description of product, etc.), business need, and the strategic plan.
3. Agreements Contract or MOU (memorandum of understanding); used when project is being performed for external customer
4. EEFs Government or industry standards, organizational culture, marketplace conditions
5. OPAs Organizational policies and procedures, project document templates and corporate database of lessons learned
1. Expert Judgment Used for analyzing technical and management-related details of inputs in order to develop the output (project charter)
2. Facilitation Techniques Brainstorming, conflict resolution, problem solving
1. Project Charter Formally authorizes the project

These three inputs, plus the generic inputs of the EEFs and OPAs, make up the five inputs to the 4.1 Develop Project Charter process.

4. Project Statement of Work (SOW)—Who creates it?

This is going to depend on the end result of the project is going to be a product, service, or result that is used internally within the company, or is to be delivered to an external customer.

If the sponsoring organization is the one that is going to use the end result, then the sponsor is the one that originates the SOW (input #1 above) If a customer is the one that is going to use the end result, then the customer is the one that originates the SOW. The SOW may be part of a bid document (request for proposal, request for information, request for bid) or as part of a contract, all of which are examples of Agreements (input #3 above).

4. Project Statement of Work (SOW)—How does it work with the other inputs?

a. SOW
The components of the Project SOW are as follows:

Element Description
1. Product scope description Characteristics of the product, service or result to be created as a result of the project. How does this project fulfill the business need described above?
2. Business need Why do the project? Because of some external factor such as:

  • Market demand (new demands create new products)
  • Technological advance (taking advantage of new materials and/or availabile technologies
  • Legal requirement
  • Government regulations (environmental, safety, etc.)
  • Organizational need (increased revenues, compliance with industry standards or guidelines such as ISO)
  • Social need (NGO)
  • Customer request
3. Strategic plan Why do the project? Because it aligns with some internal strategic goals of the organization, both in terms of the high-level mission statement, the strategic plan, and the actual cost-benefit analysis of how the project will contribute to the bottom line of the organization.

b. Business Case

How is the business need different from the business case? The business case takes the business need outlined in the SOW (element 1 in the chart above) and justifies how the result of the project (element 2 in the chart above) will satisfy that need AND align with the strategic goals of the organization (element 3 in the chart above). It is the analysis that ties together the 3 elements of the SOW like so:

c. Agreements

As mentioned above, IF the product is to be made for a customer in an external organization, then the SOW may come EITHER in the form of a procurement document OR a contract, both of which are covered under the category of Agreements.

So the SOW may come internally or externally (input #1 or input #3), and is analyzed in what is called the business case (input #2). As the “seed” of the project, it is then taken into the Initiating Process group through process 4.1 Develop Project Charter, where it is developed into the Project Charter (the output of the process) through two techniques, Expert Judgment and Facilitation Techniques.

This concludes the discussion of the Project Statement of Work, the input to Process 4.1 Develop Project Charter. The next post will deal with the output of Process 4.1 Develop Project Charter, by analyzing what the elements of the Project Charter are.


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