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How to Prepare a Scope of Work

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To prepare a beneficial scope of work document, you'll need to include important elements such as the project goals, budget and timeline, as well as outlining the tasks to be done and who will do them. Whether you're creating one to share with a business client or you're working on a research project, the scope of work document isn't just another hoop to jump through. It's a crucial part of the process that can help you work through important details of the project before you begin.

Understand the Requirements

The first step to preparing a scope of work document is clearly understanding what the project entails. Every one will be slightly different, depending on the project and the players. Sit down with the parties involved -- whether a client or fellow researchers -- and clearly define what the client needs and what the end result will be. Use the 5 Ws to be sure you're getting all the pertinent information. For example, you might ask who the key players will be, what the project entails, when the project needs to be completed, where the work will be completed, and how much money you'll have to spend on the project.

Define Team Contributions

With all the necessary information from the client, take that information to your team to start formulating a plan for who will do what and what they'll need to get the job done. Work backward from the end goal to define the steps to accomplish the goal. With each step, name the person who will handle that part, what tools she will need to get the job done, who will oversee that person's work, and the deadlines for key tasks. Also note who will be responsible for ensuring all elements of the project come together -- whether that's the project manager, a research administrator or someone else.

Use SMART Goals

With individual pieces of the puzzle covered, write out all the details of the project using the "SMART" goal setting model, an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or results, and time-bound. Name the specific end goal at the top of the page. Under that, break that goal into weekly, monthly or project-based goals, and detail how you'll measure when those goals are met.

If you're building a structure for a client, for example, you'll have an overall goal of finishing the structure, but then you'll break that down into smaller goals such as "Complete Site Survey" and "Lay Foundation." Measure your progress by stating the dates by which you'll have key parts of the structure completed. For the "attainable" part, name who will carry out specific tasks and how they'll do them. For realistic or results, name what tasks will be completed by which dates, and who will inspect the work at key points.

Create a Summary

Your SMART goal setting document can serve as a detailed document about your scope of work, but also create a summary page for the first page of the document. At the top of the summary page, write out the project's end goal and the desired outcome.

Then create subheadings that cover the various elements of the project, such as "Timeline," "Budget" and so on, under which you briefly describe that element of the project. Also include an "Assumptions" subhead, under which you define the things that must be in place for the project to proceed as planned. If you need a subcontractor to deliver a key piece of equipment by a certain date, for example, include that there. Also include a "Deliverables" subhead, under which you define milestones in the project and who will sign off on each milestone.

At the end of the document, create a signature page on which the client or supervisor shows his approval of the scope of work and gives you authority to begin work.