Almost certainly, the single most critical document you will develop for your procurement is the performance work statement (PWS). It is the core articulation of what you want to achieve; it drives what is being solicited in an RFP and the scope, services and deliverables of the contract. It defines the criteria for acceptance of any deliverables, and also defines your responsibilities and those of your contractor. The PWS often determines what procurement mechanism(s) is available and is perhaps optimal for your procurement project.

Your PWS must be precisely worded, complete in its scope based on your intentions and unambiguous in its designation of roles. No other aspect of the procurement should demand more of your attention and clear thinking; it is the single biggest determinant of a successful procurement.

The key to writing a good PWS is to keep both the jurisdiction’s and the bidders’ perspectives in mind. Precision and clarity regarding the desired outcomes will ensure that the jurisdiction’s interests are accurately represented and communicated. Thorough guidance to bidders will ensure they know how to respond, and will enable the successful bidder to perform the work effectively and efficiently. Just as “good fences make good neighbors,” good PWSs and contracts make for productive contractual relationships.

Key points

  • The performance work statement (or statement of work/statement of objectives) is most often the centerpiece of a procurement project, one to which you will likely devote considerable thought and time.
  • The key to a good performance work statement is completeness and precision: unambiguous or defined words, clarity of meaning, and writing with the bidders in mind.
  • Learn early on what templates and/or boilerplate language you need to use in creating your performance work statement.

A common mistake made in IIS procurements is assuming the selected bidder will perform tasks (testing, cleansing and migrating data, providing a training environment) not specified in the PWS, or assuming the program will have direct access to the data for data cleansing or other purposes without actually requiring such a function in the RFP or contract. Another common mistake is over-specifying either tasks or timelines that constrain the selected bidder’s ability to innovate in proposing or providing the best, most cost-effective solution.

The format and headings for your PWS will be determined at least in part—perhaps wholly—by the template(s) available in your jurisdiction. Those templates may have different headings/sections or use different terms to represent the same concepts as those below. (See the planning section for more information on researching the templates you may be required to use.) Ask your procurement officer for samples of particularly good PWSs.

A PWS is customarily structured in an outline format so that the various components can be readily and unambiguously referenced when bidders communicate with you (e.g., “In section III.C.1 you say that…”).

Tool downloads

Determine whether to use a statement of objectives, performance work statement or statement of work

This reference document summarizes key attributes of each type of project description document to guide determination of which approach is best suited to an individual planned procurement.

Choosing a Project Description

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