For many companies, the scope of work is one of the most important parts of their RFP. Briefly said, here they will explain what they need to be done and by when. However, writing a scope of work is not as simple as it sounds. Several things need to be included to make sure that there is not going to be any confusion about the nature of the job in the future.
If there is no scope of work included in the RFP, it is useless to issue one. But, on the other hand, if the scope of work is described and defined very vaguely, it will be hard for the vendors to understand what they are supposed to do.
Situations like this can cause confusion and delays in the entire project realization. In addition, vendors or service providers who do not understand the scope of work will not provide a good and valuable response to the RFP itself.
Because of this, we will start this blog by explaining why it is important to write a good scope of work (SOW) and the six steps you should follow in the writing process. However, don’t take this for granted, and feel free to add details that are specific to your business in particular.
Why Is It Important to Write a Good Scope of Work?
Scope of work is an essential and inevitable part of all RFPs (Request for Proposals). It is a part of the document where you (as the investor or potential client) are in detail stating the scope of work that has to be done.
Writing a good definition of the scope of work is crucial because many issues can arise when this is not formulated clearly and concisely. The biggest issue that may arise is that the contractor thinks he has delivered the work, while you, as the investor, are not agreeing with that.
A vaguely defined and described scope of work, project goals, or objectives can leave lots of grey areas that different sides can interpret differently. This will cause further delays and troubles for both sides. So instead, the deliverables should be described alongside the parameters that will measure the project's completion level.
A well-written scope of work will make the vendor’s job easier because they will have everything very clearly written. The process of writing response should flow smoothly because the vendors will have all the information they need.
When the vendor knows what is requested and what he must do to complete the project, it is easier for them to craft a proposal accordingly. On the other hand, when there are no well-defined tasks or criteria, the vendor cannot get a good picture of what are the things that you need to be done, and the quality of the proposal will not be very high.
Scope of work should be divided into six sections or written following the six steps, each one covering one important topic. All of them all listed and explained below. As already mentioned, feel free to customize the scope of work according to your business requirements, such as functional requirements, security requirements, etc.
If you feel like too many tasks have to be completed on your side before you can continue writing the scope of work, maybe it would be a good idea to check whether any of the project management software would be of any use to you.
Project management software can help you structure the scope of work and point out all the important details you should include. However, the use of this software doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to the RFP - you can also use it for other internal projects, for example. It can also help you utilize the project charter.
What Should Be Included in the Scope of Work?
You should avoid talking about all things that are not the project's primary concern, or anyhow not connected to the scope of work. So, for example, all the extra details and general details of the company overview, how the company is doing business, etc., should be left out of this part of the request for proposal.
Here you can mention some specific details about your business that are influencing the project itself, but avoid talking about the story of your company, how you developed over the years, what are all the areas where you do business, how that implicates the project, etc. All of this stuff can be mentioned in the executive summary, for example.
Step 1 - Explain the Technical Terms
Every business has its own specific terms and abbreviations, which are not widely known to people outside the industry. Sometimes the companies even have their own acronyms that are made up only for their purposes.
To avoid confusion and ease it up for the potential bidders, the first part of the scope of work should be a glossary with all the terms that will be used in the documents and which may be unfamiliar to some people reading the document.
A good piece of advice is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has nothing to do with the job and imagine they will have to read the scope of work. This will make it easier to recognize which terms need to be mentioned and explained in the glossary.
If there are too many technical requirements, they all need to be included in the glossary, explaining each term individually. This can be a time-consuming process, but it shouldn’t be avoided.
If the bidding company is from the same industry as the issuer, then the technical terms should already be familiar, and it would be considered a must for them to understand those terms. However, to avoid confusion later on, make sure to list them here - just in case.
Step 2 - Explain What the Problem Is
Once you have written the glossary, it is time to move on to the actual explaining what the problem is. This is going to be a paragraph explaining why you are writing the RFP in the first place.
Here you have to include all the elements that could be relevant for the reader. This means that you have to describe the problem you are having, what other factors have brought you to that situation, and the current stage the project is in (is it at the beginning, or you are stitch somewhere halfway, etc.).
Make sure not to exaggerate here and write too much. You should give enough details so that someone who’s reading can create a picture of the problem and how it could be solved. Make sure not to reveal any information or data that is a business secret - leave those for the winning bidder after the disclosure has been signed.
The key is to include only as much information as a potential vendor needs to conclude the project and how their solution needs to be crafted. But, on the other hand, try to avoid mentioning too many irrelevant details about the project.
Step 3 - Make the End Goal Clear
As an extent to the previous chapter, you need to define the ultimate goal of the project. You may not know how to reach there, but you definitely know where you want to end up.
It is crucial to define the objective you would like to achieve to avoid confusion amongst the vendors. Vaguely described scope of work and the goal will result in low-quality bids, as already mentioned.
The whole purpose of an RFP is to find a contractor with an innovative idea that will solve the issue you are having - to find a path you need to take towards your goal. In the previous section, you have described where you are at the moment. Here you have to define where you want to be once the project is finished.
If you are a government institution or any other public organization issuing an RFP, you are probably bound by some rules. This means that you need to put the project and the goal formulation in a previously created pattern.
This can be more time-consuming, but in the end, it is better for the issuing party. Moreover, with a structure and form all the bidders have to follow, it will be easier to evaluate the proposals and compare them.
On the other hand, a private company has more flexibility and freedom to express themselves, so in this section, they can require the vendors to give their opinion about the project goal. Sometimes the RFPs are very strict and demand the project goal be completed, while sometimes, the companies can share their opinion of the sustainability of the goal itself.
Step 4 - Divide the Project into Sections
A tiny percentage of larger projects can be completed with only one deliverable. Deliverables are sections of the projects that will represent certain project milestones completed. Each deliverable is a goal that has to be finished.
Besides defining the deliverables, you should also define the tasks that need to be completed to consider the deliverables. It is good to go into details here so that the other side knows what they have to do and in what order. Here you also need to define how you will measure if a certain task is completed and to what extent.
This will make the job easier for both parties. In addition, once the contractor has a specific list of tasks they have to finish, the risk of them not understanding the job and not finishing it in the given period of time will come down to a minimum.
Breaking down the project into sections like this will allow the other side to see how complex the project is and how many different people need to create an RFP response.
If the project is connected to a specific field, people from the sales team, marketing team, financial team, project management team, etc., need to be included. Usually, one person per team is included in crafting an RFP response, but sometimes you may need more than one.
If the project is too complex, the potential vendor may need to hire an SME (subject matter expert) to give their opinion of the process and help them handle the vendor responses quickly. However, there will always be at least one project manager involved in the process to help handle the deadlines and make sure that the procedures are being followed.
The more the project goes into details, and the more specifics it has, the more time the vendors will need to craft a proposal, so be mindful of that when you set the deadlines. For example, if you are working on a software development project or a redesign project, make sure that you have done the breakdown of the tasks correctly to effectively describe them in the scope of work.
Step 5 - Schedule the Meetings in Advance
One of the key components of success is clear and efficient communication between the investor and the contractor. The only way to ensure that this is done right is to schedule meetings, conference calls, follow-ups, is to define them at the early stage of the project.
Here you need to suggest how regularly the meetings will be held to make sure that the project is moving at the pace you have wanted. It is also a good controlling tool to see what has been done and what is left.
If you schedule all the meetings on time and never miss them, it is easy to recognize issues and potential delays. When you recognize potential delays on time, you have enough room to act and prevent that from actually happening.
Make sure to write all of this in the scope of the work description. A detailed specification will save you lots of time because the vendors will see what level and frequency of communication is expected from them.
From that point, they can work on seeing whether they can fit the project in their probably already very thigh schedule.
Because nowadays everyone is short of time, the good idea is to use the internet to increase efficiency and help key collaborators save some valuable time. However, when you have people working on the project with you as independent consultants from outside of your company, it can be hard to put together all the pieces and choose a time that fits everyone perfectly.
When people are working remotely, or your employees are working from home, extensive time could be spent traveling to and from your office. Because of this, it is a good idea to use business meetings platforms (like Zoom, for example) to save up some time.
It is easier to agree on a deadline when everything is done online, throw a meeting platform. Then, you could easily create a meeting, send invitations to all the participants, check whether they are available for a meeting at that point, make amendments, notify everybody at once, etc.
Step 6 - Define the Timeline and the Deadlines
All the dates you have mentioned so far should be summarized in this section, along with the project timeline and deadlines for the deliverables. This way, you will have everything in one place, and it will be easier to keep track of the deadlines.
This section will also allow the potential vendors and contractors to see whether they fit into the desired timeline or not. If the vendor estimates that they don’t have the capacity to honor the deadlines, they will not bid for the project in the first place.
Also, if you are experiencing any difficulties and delays with the contractor, later on, it will be easier to refer to this section, showing them that all the deadlines were transparent even before they were hired.
Each scope of work needs to have deadlines - it is considered an essential part of the description. Without defined deadlines, you cannot measure whether the job was completed successfully or not.
As aforementioned, be mindful of how demanding the RFP is and how much time a vendor would need to create a high-quality RFP response. Make sure to leave enough time to think about the problem described in the RFP and act accordingly.
Scope of Work Example
To summarize everything written above, here we bring you an example of how a finished scope of work should look like if you followed all the aforementioned steps. Of course, according to your company policy and the specifics of the business you are doing, there might be some differences, but that is okay because the scope of work and whole RFP should be highly customized to match your specific needs.
The example we are about to describe is a company looking for someone to finish their web redesign project. In the RFP scope of work, the description would look something similar to this:
Project management - It is important to state that the contractor will be in charge of the whole project management process from beginning to end. Hence, it is important to mention that this will be their responsibility. Sometimes the issuer chooses to deal with the project management, but it is better to delegate that to the vendor to have better control over the whole process.
Content strategy and content management - Because what is a website without any content on it? This includes everything from creating a blog section to writing an About us page.
Copywriting - The idea of the website is to be informative, but also to be a form of sales channel, so a good copy is a must. After all, the companies use their websites to attract and gain new customers.
Illustration and visual design - So that the new website follows your brand image and colors.
Information design - Can be divided into several tasks (for example, sitemap and wireframes could be two new deliverables instead of this one).
SEO or search engine optimization - Important but time-consuming part that will shoot the Google rank of the website high on the first search page.
Front-end coding - Include what is required (HTML/CSS, animations…)
Back-end coding is the same as the point above (CMS, APIs, custom design, and software…)
Quality assurance - The vendor needs to provide exceptional quality.
Testing the product (website) - They are obligated to test the website and its features before delivering. This is important when you want to receive a fully functional and finished product.
Marketing strategy - With an accent on paid advertising, for example. Here you might expect them to receive finished Facebook ad copies, for example.
Other deliverables that you have defined and that are closely connected to the project.
These tasks can be further broken down, depending on the project's complexity, like the aforementioned example of information design. However, it is always better to break down the tasks as much as possible because you increase transparency and clarity.
For some tasks, you cannot create a break-down list because of their nature. For example, project management tasks cannot be divided further and don’t have explicit parameters to measure the success rate. Still, it surely describes what is expected from the bidding company.
Breaking down the scope of work into tasks is important for one more reason - some potential vendors will get an accurate estimate of their prices based on that. An easy way to calculate the project cost is to take all the tasks or project deliverables and multiply them by the company's hourly rate.
These tactics will result in an estimated budget created, and it also saves lots of time. Once the budget estimation is completed, the vendor and the client can agree on the payment terms, deadlines, and other relevant things regarding money.
Contact us for being sure that your bidding process is on point and you don't miss any deadline or requirements.