SOW Writing Guide

SOWWritingGuide_imageWhat is a Statement of Work?

Within an RFP/Contract, the Statement of Work (SOW) defines the tasks to be accomplished and/or the services to be delivered by the selected contractor. A well-written SOW is the cornerstone of an effective RFP, and is essential to the management of a sound contract and the mitigation of contracting risks. Within most public sector organizations in Canada, operational program managers are responsible for developing SOW’s, not the procurement specialists.

Why are Statements of Work so difficult to write?

  • Complexity – SOW’s are unique to each contract and can vary significantly depending upon the type of work required, the duration and the contract mechanism being established.
  • Risks – the operational, financial, legal, contractual and reputational risks of a poor SOW can be very serious.
  • Expertise – qualified writers who understand the operational, financial and contractual requirements of a compliant and enforceable SOW are in short supply.
  • Time – the procurement process can never move fast enough for public sector program managers, and the development of a good SOW can be a very time consuming process.
  • Few rules and no roadmap – there are few clear rules or standards in place within the public sector to define what a good SOW looks like, or how to write one.

Public sector organizations face many unique challenges in the area of procurement. They have a large number of diverse programs, responsibilities and employees across Canada. To a great extent, procurement requirements are also largely “event-driven”, and in some cases (but not all) these events can and do occur on very short notice. Foreseen or unforeseen, when these events do occur they typically generate substantial amounts of procurement activity in an environment of extreme urgency and priority.

Public sector program managers have an important job to do and critical programs to deliver. Canadians expect a great deal from them, and they operate under high degrees of pressure, urgency and scrutiny. Many program managers do not feel that they have adequate time or training to consider the many facets of public sector procurement policy. For some, the procurement process is often viewed as an impediment or an obstacle preventing them from getting on with their job.

When there is a program or event to be delivered, time is limited and procurement requirements have not been planned in advance (for any reason), there is a strong impulse among some managers to take whatever measures they can to by-pass or look for shortcuts around the procurement process, and simply get it done as quickly and expediently as possible. And this is precisely where the majority of procurement risks emanate from. When shortcuts get taken; when full compliance with the rules is sacrificed in the name of expediency; when an open, fair, transparent and competitive selection process is by-passed in favour of a sole source contract, an Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN), an amendment or some other similar mechanism, these decisions can almost always be identified as the leading cause of potential procurement risks to the department.

So, what does a good Statement of Work look like?

To answer this question, RFPSOLUTIONS INC. developed the Statement of Work (SOW) Writing Guide ® document in an effort to assist public sector employees with the demands of the competitive procurement process, and in particular the demands associated with writing Statements of Work. Our hope is that it is of some benefit to managers in their efforts to meet operational procurement needs, while at the same time balancing the need to ensure compliance with the spirit and intent of public sector contracting policies.

This free 30-page document goes far beyond typical 2-3 page SOW templates, by identifying the essential messages to be conveyed within each numbered section of a standardized SOW. The SOW Writing Guide is based on best practices from across the Canadian public sector, and includes a helpful checklist of reminders, do’s and don’t’s.

To download a copy of RFPSOLUTIONS’ SOWWriting Guide ® in English, click here. For French, click here.

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