What is a Scope of Work and why do I need one? :: The Construction Management Pro

What is a Scope of Work and why do I need one?

For real estate investors, or any one undertaking a project, a Scope of Work is essential to communicate to your contractor what is to be done. Often the SOW will include time of performance and what constitutes successful implementation of tasks.

I have heard real estate investors complain that projects cost more than expected; that things that should have been in the contract were considered extras. That the quality of materials used was inferior and unacceptable to the owner. All of these could be avoided if an appropriate Scope of Work was developed and communicated to the contractor.

In the construction industry, a Scope of Work is a list of all the tasks to be performed by a specific company. I use the Scope of Work as an addendum to the standard boiler plate contract. Failure to have an adequate scope of work leads to misunderstanding regarding what is in and not in the contract, what quality of materials and fixtures are to be incorporated into the project and what is the standard of acceptability.

I had an occasion to work with a software firm in the development of a new product. We spent several meetings discussing what the product was to do, what problems it was to solve and the user interface. In essence we were developing a scope of work for the contractor regarding the design and development of the program. This is applicable to any industry that is project based.

I believe in the three C’s of project management – Communication, Coordination and Confirmation. The Scope of Work is the start of the Communication process. Without that, you reduce your project’s chances of having a successful and satisfactory outcome.

Developing a Scope of Work is not rocket science or astral physics. It does take some experience and a sense of detail. The more detail the better. After a while, you will find that a lot of it can be put in boiler plate form. After all, there are very few truly unique tasks in housing renovation.

  1. Review your project, room by room, inside and out. It is good to use a check list so that you don’t miss anything. Develop a methodology for the inspection. You may want to start on the outside at the roof line and work your way down to the foundation and site work (landscaping, paving and fencing). Inside you may want to start in the basement and work your way up or vice versa. There is no right or wrong way, just be consistent.
  2. Identify what work you want done, the quality of the material and who is going to do it. Make note of specific items that you think your contractor may overlook or have been an issue in the past.
  3. If you will be hiring separate trades, be sure that all the work is assigned to a contractor and that you have not included the work in more than one contractors work list. For example if you are installing windows, who will install the window trim? Will this be the window installer or your carpenter? Be as specific as you can. For instance specify the finish for your door hardware (brass, brushed nickel etc., front and rear doors to be keyed alike).
  4. Include all tasks the contractor is expected to perform – supply and install, clean up to dumpster provided by owner (or taken off site and disposed of in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations).
  5. Include non-construction tasks that are specific to a trade or tasks. With your electrical and plumbing contractors, for example, you will want to include applicable permits for both, and you’ll also want to add a scope item specifying that each is responsible for coordinating their work with the other and passing inspections.
  6. You will be creating some general scope items called in the trade General Conditions. Sometimes these are incorporated into the contract sometimes into the Scope of Work. Again, neither is right or wrong, just be sure to incorporate them somewhere and be consistent (having them in both places is not a problem). Some of these items may be progress reports, cleanup, safety issues, and coordination of activities with others working on the job etc. Are there any tasks that might result in long term liability such as environmental, unusually hazardous risks, or security?
  7. Once completed, transmit this Scope of Work to your contractor for review. I schedule a follow up meeting at the site to review the scope with each contractor to ensure all items are understood, and that the contractor is in agreement with the scope. This should be done before a contract is awarded.

Once developed, it can be used as a template for future projects. Be careful not to get lazy! Each project should have its Scope of Work tailored to the needs of that job. Your template needs to be carefully reviewed so that you include all work you expect to have done.

Your Scope of Work should include your company’s name, the contractor’s name and the name and location of the project. As the first step in the project process, it is then tied to the schedule of values, progress payments, acceptance/rejection of work and final acceptance of the project.

Many organizations use construction Scope of Work and Specification templates from pre-programmed software or forms. Some commonly uses sources are:

  Housing Developer Pro,Community Development Software, LLC, www.communitydevelopmentsoftware.com
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, www.nw.org
R. S. Means Company, www.rsmeans.com
Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, www.agc.org
Northwest Builders Network, www.nwbuildnet.com

The more your can automate this process and customize templates, the more effective you will be in managing costs, quality and have a successful project.

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One Response to “What is a Scope of Work and why do I need one?”

  1. Lorna on February 1st, 2011 4:19 pm

    I like this. It was very informative and well written.

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