Last edited 27 Apr 2021

Scope of work

The Association for Project Management describes ‘scope’ as ‘The totality of outputs, outcomes and benefits and the work required to produce them’ and ‘scope management’ as ‘The process whereby outputs, outcomes and benefits are identified, defined and controlled’.

In construction, the term ‘scope of work’ (sometimes described as a ‘scope of works’ or ‘statement of work’) is a very general, and sometimes ambiguous term referring to a general description of the work that is expected to be performed under a particular contract. It may be prepared by the client or their consultants and included in tender documentation for construction works.

The nature of the scope of work can vary significantly from project to project. Sometimes it will simply offer a very broad description of the works required, whilst sometimes it provides a complete description of the project, significant milestones, a programme of work with the expected timeframes for delivery, reports, pricing, deliverables, roles and responsibilities and end products that are to be provided.

For more information, see What should be included in a scope of work?

A scope of work can be a useful way of agreeing broad project requirements for both the client and supplier. However, errors or inconsistencies with other contract documentation can lead to confusion and uncertainties which are often cited as a cause of disputes on construction projects.

It is common for changes to be required to the scope of work after the contract has been awarded. Most forms of contract make provisions for the contract administrator to instruct reasonable variations which may give rise to additions or deductions from the contract sum, however, these variations must not change the nature of the works themselves. In some cases, the works may be tendered before the scope of work is known in detail. In this case, provisional sums may be included in the contract, or flexible procurement routes adopted such as measurement contracts or prime cost contracts.

The term ‘scope of work’ is generally used to refer to construction activities, however, a ‘scope of services’ which describes the services a consultant will be performing on a project may also sometimes be referred to as a scope of work.

Confusingly, the term ‘scope of work’ can also used interchangeably with the term ‘schedule of work’. However, a schedule of work has a more specific meaning, referring to 'without quantities' instructional lists often produced on smaller projects or for alteration work as an alternative to bills of quantities, allowing the pricing of items such as builders work and fixing schedules.

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