Craft a Comprehensive Scope of Work In 8 Simple Steps


Need help crafting a comprehensive scope of work for your next construction project?

Here are the facts:

Poor preconstruction planning and project scope definition are significant causes of expensive changes, delays, and rework.

And cost and schedule overruns are not the hallmarks of a successful project, are they?

To be prepared for your next project. Review these step-by-step instructions so you can craft a comprehensive scope of work that accurately defines your project deliverables, clarifies stakeholder roles and responsibilities, fleshes out your budget, and drives your project schedule.

What is a Scope of Work (SOW), and why is it important?

The Scope of Work (SOW) is a construction contract section describing the work to be performed under the agreement. 

The scope of work outlines the project expectations, timelines, milestones, deliverables, and payment details. And it is the basis of the agreement between the owner, design team, and general contractor that guides every project decision.

When crafted correctly, the scope of work defines what is and is not included in the contract.

And that’s important because a rigorously defined work scope helps avoid conflicts, misunderstandings, scope creep, and misinformed change order requests that can cause delays and derail your project.

Step 1: Define the Project Goals and Objectives.

Be very specific when you write the project goals and objectives section.

Use descriptive language and avoid ambiguous and subjective terminology. Refer to the architectural and design drawings for specific measurements, geographic data, and other relevant details that capture the project’s spirit and intent.

The goal is to create a statement that summarizes what is to be accomplished with enough detail to guide the project stakeholders as they develop their budgets and timelines.

Step 2: Identify the Project Deliverables

The project deliverables are the products, services, structures, and property improvements the general contractor will deliver and install for the project owner.

Project deliverables include all the finished products, structures, and systems required to meet the project’s goals and objectives.

Deliverables may also include property improvements, utility installations, site remediation, or demolition. Deliverables will likely include physical elements such as buildings, building additions, parking lots, lighting, security systems, and landscaping.

Here’s a brief outline of typical headings and categories you can rely on as you categorize your deliverables using the CSI MasterFormat®

00 00 00   Procurement and Contracting
01 00 00   General Requirements
02 00 00   Existing Conditions
03 00 00   Concrete
04 00 00   Masonry
05 00 00   Metals
06 00 00   Wood, Plastics, and Composites
07 00 00   Thermal and Moisture Protection
08 00 00   Openings
09 00 00   Finishes
10 00 00   Specialties
11 00 00   Equipment
12 00 00   Furnishings
13 00 00   Special Construction
14 00 00   Conveying Equipment
21 00 00   Fire Suppression
22 00 00   Plumbing
23 00 00   Heat, Ventilating, & Air Cond. (HVAC).
25 00 00   Integrated Automation
26 00 00   Electrical
27 00 00   Communications
28 00 00   Electronic Safety and Security
31 00 00   Earthwork
32 00 00   Exterior Improvements
33 00 00   Utilities
34 00 00   Transportation
35 00 00   Waterway and Marine Construction
40 00 00   Process Integration
41 00 00   Material Process & Handling Equipment
42 00 00   Heating, Cooling & Drying Equip
43 00 00   Gas, Liquid Handling & Storage Equip
44 00 00   Pollution and Waste Control Equipment
45 00 00   Industry-Specific Manufacturing Equip
46 00 00   Water and Wastewater Equipment
48 00 00   Electrical Power Generation

And no project is complete without the documentation.

Your contract deliverables will likely include warranties, manufacturer registrations, operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals, test results, certificates, and written approvals.

Step 3: Develop a Project Timeline.

Your third step is to develop the project’s timeline.

The timeline outlines the project’s schedule and identifies key milestones, such as the start and end dates of each phase of the project.

Gannt charts are great for giving a high-level view of the project’s primary phases and the milestones within each phase.

The most accurate and efficient way to build your timeline is to use Linarc’s Master Scheduler.

The Master Scheduler module decomposes the project milestones and high-level deliverables into smaller work packages with Work Breakdown Structures (WBS).


The WBS is a hierarchical chart that breaks down the project deliverables into smaller and smaller tasks creating an easy-to-follow road map for everyone.

And with the project decomposed into its parts, it’s now easier to assign stakeholder responsibilities and budget resources.

Step 4: Define the Project Budget

Your budget is taking shape because your project’s total cost is divided into individual cost components through the Work Breakdown Structures (WBS).

  • Time,
  • Labor,
  • Materials,
  • Equipment, and
  • Supervision has all been accounted for.

Now you have a comprehensive, detailed budget complete with a schedule of values and a detailed breakdown of the project’s billable work packages, installations, and tasks.

Of course, you want your budget to be as accurate as possible, but be sure to allocate contingency funds for unplanned expenses, such as design changes or environmental factors.

Step 5: Detail the Payment Terms and Draw Schedule.

The scope of work should include a section devoted to the project’s payment terms and invoicing schedule.

Most payment terms follow a progressive schedule of draws where work is invoiced upon delivery to the job site, after installation, and upon completion according to the schedule of values.

AIA Document G703-1992 Continuation Sheet

But rather than processing draw requests by hand, use project management software to speed up the payment process instead.

Linarc’s WBS integration is great for this tedious task.

Linarc”s WBS integration tracks work as it’s completed straight from the schedule and draws from the schedule of values.

That gives you a payment schedule format that includes a description of the work performed, the value of that work, what work has been installed and paid to date, and what work is left to complete.

It’s important to lay out the payment terms and draw submittal requirements in detail.

Owners and contractors depend on a reliable payment schedule to manage their cash flow, plan for future expenses, and keep the project on track.

Step 6: Identify Quality Standards and Acceptance Criteria

Quality standards are the specific requirements that each work package and deliverable must meet to ensure that the project achieves its goals and objectives.

And the acceptance criteria are generally drawn from local, state, and federal building codes, manufacturer’s installation requirements, project specifications, drawings, industry standards, and owner requirements.

And your acceptance criteria should be as specific as possible.

Information such as tonnage of material, square footage installed, physical or geospatial measurements, and any other verifiable criteria can be used to measure the deliverable’s fidelity to the project specifications.

Step 7: Scope of Work Change Order Process

Everyone understands that projects don’t always go as planned, so it’s essential to include a comprehensive change order process to handle unanticipated costs or unforeseen circumstances.

The change order section of the SOW should include the process for requesting, approving, and documenting contract changes.

Include details about the notification process, who reviews change order requests, who can approve change orders, and how the change order request will be tracked.

Your best solution here is to rely on the change order module in Linarc’s project management software.

The Linarc change order module automates the change order notification process and tracks the entire change order lifecycle, from initial request to review, approval, execution, and final payment.

This makes the change order process more efficient and helps to avoid project delays and cost overruns.

Step 8: Scope of Work Review and Acceptance

The final step is to review, revise, and accept the scope of work.

Project stakeholders must take the time to critically review the scope of work as it applies to their roles and responsibilities.

A critical review is essential because the scope of work forms the basis of the construction contract, governs the project’s timeline and budget, and sets the standard for quality.

Ensure that all project deliverables, timelines, budgets, quality standards, and acceptance criteria have been accurately defined. Suggest revisions if necessary.

Once each stakeholder is satisfied that the scope of work accurately defines their roles and responsibilities, the project team can sign off on it together and move forward with the project.

Simplify your process with intelligent automation.

Get a free, custom demonstration of the Linarc construction management system today.

Linarc is a cloud-based project management system built solely for collaborative, data-driven construction management.

  • Seamless collaboration
  • Easy file sharing
  • Common communication platform 
  • Real-time updates on project progress
  • …and so much more

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