Scope of work: Creation and management strategies

Atlassian By Atlassian
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If project management is a complex dance of timelines, resources, and objectives, the scope of work (SoW) is the choreography that keeps everyone moving in harmony. It minimizes risks, fosters collaboration, and ensures all stakeholders align in their understanding of the project objectives and expectations.

This article answers the question of “What is the scope of work?” and shares how to create an SoW step by step (hint: use a scope of work-related template like the project plan template). It will also discuss how having a scope of work can minimize risks and improve communication.

Understanding scope of work

In project planning, an SoW indicates what tasks are and aren’t part of the project. It points everyone working on the project in the right direction. An SoW brings clarity when developing a project plan by setting expectations and boundaries, ensuring alignment among project stakeholders.

Key components of a scope of work

An SoW discusses the overall goals the project will achieve, what the project will produce, and when the appropriate parties will produce it. 

The following key components of a Scope of Work provide the granular details and specifications essential to the project's success. They outline the overall goals, specific objectives, deliverables, roles, responsibilities, and timelines that guide the project's execution.

Project objectives and deliverables

Project objectives and deliverables are the specific aims and tangible outcomes the project intends to achieve. They provide a clear purpose and direction for the project. Defining these ensures everyone on a team understands the project's goals and expected results. Use a scope of work template to streamline this process.

Suppose the project is a website redesign. The objective is to improve the user experience. Deliverables could include a redesigned website layout and structure, updated content, and improved site navigation.

Inclusions and exclusions

To prevent scope creep, specify what the project includes—such as expectations around tasks, responsibilities, and necessary resources. Also, explain what the project does not include. This clarity eliminates ambiguity and keeps the project on track.

For this hypothetical project, inclusions could be mobile responsiveness, content creation, and quality assurance testing. Exclusions could be ongoing content updates or domain registration.

Project boundaries and constraints

The SoW should define limitations, such as budget, resources, and brand guidelines.

For example, the website redesign must not exceed a $30,000 budget. The team—a project manager, web designer, developer, and content writer—must use specific color schemes and messaging.

Project assumptions

Projects often rely on certain assumptions about the environment, resources, or conditions. State these assumptions to manage expectations and reduce risks associated with unforeseen changes.

When redesigning a website, common assumptions could involve:

  • server infrastructure and hosting services availability
  • content management system compatibility
  • accessible data and assets for migration

Timeline and milestones

Establish a project timeline with key milestones and deadlines to keep the project on track and aligned with its objectives and deliverables. Milestones are progress markers, helping the team monitor their journey toward project completion.

Here’s an example of a timeline with milestones for a website redesign: 

  • Weeks 1–4: Kick off the project, and design and develop the website layout.
  • Weeks 5–8: Create and develop content.
  • Weeks 9–12: Test, debug, and launch the website.

How to create a scope of work

Request input from key stakeholders as you create the SoW. Remember, collaboration is the glue that holds everything together. It provides clarity and transparency, ensures alignment with business goals, and enhances a shared understanding between stakeholders.

Here’s how to create a robust SoW:

  1. Gather information: Seek input from various team members and stakeholders—from clients to project managers—about essential project details, requirements, and objectives.
    Insider tip: Create a Confluence page with a pre-configured template for collecting client requirements. Clients can fill it out, and Confluence automatically organizes the information for the project team to access. Teams can also design their own templates around the ways they work together. Confluence pages also integrate with Jira making it easy to promote document control and stay aligned as a team throughout the entire process.
  2. Define objectives and deliverables: Ensure alignment among team members and stakeholders.
    Insider tip: Define project objectives by breaking them into user stories and tasks within Jira. In this Agile project management approach, user stories can represent high-level project objectives, and tasks can represent specific deliverables. Assign these to the appropriate team members, and use Jira boards to visualize progress.
  3. Specify inclusions and exclusions: This helps prevent misunderstandings and scope creep during the project.
    Insider tip: Create tasks in Jira to track changes and updates to the project scope. Log out-of-scope feature requests as tasks in Jira.
  4. Set boundaries and constraints: All stakeholders should know about budget limitations, resource constraints, and other external factors.
    Insider tip: Create a dedicated Confluence page or section to document the project's budget and resources.
  5. State assumptions: Discuss how assumptions might affect the project's scope. This clarity avoids potential issues down the road.
    Insider tip: Link Confluence pages that document assumptions to the corresponding Jira issues.
  6. Create a timeline: A shared timeline helps keep the project on track.
    Insider tip: Create issues for project milestones and individual tasks in Jira. Assign owners, due dates, and dependencies. Use a roadmap tool like Jira that includes features to create Gantt charts for your projects.

Benefits of a well-defined scope of work

A well-defined scope of work serves as the project's cornerstone and offers a host of benefits that include:

  • Minimized risks by offering clear documentation: The project team can proactively address challenges, reducing the likelihood of unexpected issues that could derail the project.
  • Improved communication among team members and stakeholders: A detailed SoW is a central reference point for all project-related information.
  • Enhanced project team collaboration: The team can align their efforts, work cohesively, and contribute their expertise with a clear sense of purpose.
  • Efficiently allocated resources: Project managers can assign the right team members to specific tasks, allocate budget resources, and easily manage timelines.
  • Clear boundaries that avoid scope creep: Prevent unauthorized changes or additions, helping the project stay on track and within budget.

Scope of work examples

Here is an example SoW for the hypothetical website redesign project discussed throughout this article:

Sample project: Website Redesign for XYZ Corporation

Project objectives and deliverables:

  • Objective: Redesign XYZ Corporation's website to improve user experience.
  • Deliverables:
    • Redesigned website layout and structure
    • Updated content, including text and images
    • Integration of a user-friendly content management system (CMS)
    • Implementation of responsive design for mobile compatibility
    • Improved site navigation and user interface (UI)



  • Website redesign and development
  • Content creation and migration
  • CMS integration
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Search engine optimization
  • Quality assurance and testing



  • Any additional features not specified in this Statement of Work
  • Ongoing content updates post launch
  • Hosting and domain registration (handled separately by the client)


Project boundaries and constraints

Budget: $50,000

  • Timeline: 12 weeks from project kickoff to website launch
  • Resources: A project manager, a web designer, a developer, and a content writer
  • The website must adhere to the client's existing branding guidelines.


Project assumptions

  • The client will provide all necessary content and images.
  • The client will not make any major changes to the project scope after it approval.
  • The client will perform user acceptance testing (UAT) before launch.


Timeline and milestones

  • Weeks 1–4: Project kickoff, design, and layout development
  • Weeks 5–8: Content creation and development
  • Weeks 9–12: Testing, debugging, and website launch

Here’s another example for a team in charge of a software development project. The following scope of work would guide the software enhancement project, ensuring all stakeholders clearly understand the project's objectives, boundaries, and expectations.

Sample project: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Enhancement

Project overview: The project aims to enhance and expand the existing CRM software to improve customer relationship management, streamline processes, and boost efficiency. It includes both front-end user interface improvements and back-end functionality enhancements.

Project objectives and deliverables

  • Develop a user-friendly dashboard with data visualization features for better user engagement.
  • Implement automated email notification functionality for customer follow-ups.
  • Create a mobile application version of the CRM for field sales teams.
  • Integrate with external data sources for real-time updates.
  • Enhance user access controls and security features.



  • Design and development of the user interface and features
  • Testing and quality assurance
  • Documentation of the new features and functionalities
  • User training and support during the rollout



  • Any hardware procurement or upgrades
  • Major infrastructure changes


Project boundaries and constraints

  • Complete the project within the allocated budget and timeline.
  • The project must be compatible with the existing IT infrastructure.
  • The project team must work with the current CRM database structure.


Project assumptions

  • The current CRM software license covers the enhancements.
  • Availability of the necessary server resources for the software expansion
  • Availability of the required user data for integration.


Timeline and milestones

  • Project kick-off: January 1
  • User interface design completion: February 28
  • Mobile app development completion: April 14
  • Integration testing: June 12
  • Project completion and rollout: July 7

Manage scope of work with Jira

A well-crafted SoW is essential for successful project management. It minimizes risks, enhances communication, and promotes efficient resource allocation. Jira and Confluence can further streamline the project management process with robust task tracking, collaboration, and reporting features.

  • Task tracking: Jira enables project managers to create, assign, and track tasks related to the SoW. Team members can easily update the status of their tasks, ensuring real-time visibility into project progress. Task tracking minimizes the chances of missed deadlines and helps keep the project on schedule.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration is at the core of these tools. Jira allow team members and stakeholders to communicate, share updates, and discuss project-related matters on a centralized platform. Confluence also offers a collaborative environment for creating and sharing project documentation. 
  • Reporting features: Reporting is crucial for monitoring project health and performance. Jira provide built-in reporting capabilities that allow project managers to generate various reports, including progress reports, burndown charts, and sprint summaries. These reports provide valuable insights into how the project aligns with the SoW, helping to identify potential issues or areas for improvement. Confluence enables the creation of comprehensive project documentation that teams can access and share for reporting purposes.

Scope of work: Frequently asked questions

How can you manage scope creep?

Scope creep results from unapproved changes, additions, or features introduced during the project's execution. These changes lead to timeline delays and increased costs. To manage scope creep:

  1. Clearly define project expectations in a SoW.
  2. Implement a change control process.
  3. Maintain open communication with stakeholders.
  4. Document all changes and approvals.

What are the risks of not having a clear scope of work?

Some common risks of not having a clear SoW include:

  • Scope creep. Without a well-defined SoW, there is no clear reference point to assess the impact of changes on the timeline and budget.
  • Confusion among team members. Without a precise definition of who is responsible for which task, team members may overlap in their efforts, waste time on unnecessary work, or miss essential deliverables. This can disrupt the workflow, hinder collaboration, and lead to frustration among team members.
  • Delays in project completion. When new requirements or expectations emerge, they expand the project's boundaries. This expansion often results in delays in accommodating the additional work within the timeframe designed initially.

What are some challenges in managing the scope of work?

Managing the scope of work presents several challenges throughout a project's lifecycle. 

  1. Aligning stakeholders on project objectives: Differing perspectives and expectations can complicate the process. 
  2. Gathering complete requirements with meticulous attention to detail: Missing or unclear information can lead to misinterpretations and errors. 
  3. Managing resource constraints: The project manager must be flexible and reallocate resources when needed. 

A robust change control process helps control scope changes by maintaining open communication. This process helps prevent misunderstandings and foster collaboration among team members and stakeholders.