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You may have recently been promoted to take on more project management responsibilities and you are eager to do your part. Or, you are still contemplating a career that involves project management, and you are now looking to find out more details about what is involved.

Because your experience in project management is still somewhat limited, there are some terms that you have heard of but have now realized you are not quite sure of how they are different from one another. In particular, you are curious about such words as RFI, RFP, SOW, MSA and contract. Read on to become more familiar with these key documents before you report to the next jobsite.


Receiving a Request for Information will often be the first way you learn about the organization that you might soon be contracting with to do work. The RFI is used to explore options before creating a contract for the project. A company or other organization will issue an RFI to gain information about which businesses are best suited to take on the job, as well as meet internal requirements for competitive bidding on all jobs. This is your time to shine. The existence of an RFI should indicate that the bidding process will be fair to all companies that want to throw their hat into the ring. Examine the RFI carefully to determine if your company can meet its objectives within budget.


A Request for Proposal is a document that is used to obtain comprehensive proposals from capable and interested companies, to demonstrate their skills, experience and knowledge will enable them to take on the described project. You will often receive an RFP after reading the advanced details in the RFI. It’s important to take your time and do your due diligence when developing an RFI, which will include budget details, timing of work and a thorough description of the project scope. All requirements of the project will be addressed, with you showing the specific steps or solutions you will follow from day one to completion.


The Statement of Work is a document that the companies will use to describe what will be happening during the project. For example, the SOW should indicate all items that will be delivered, the timeline or timelines involved and when invoicing will take place. You are spelling out everything that will be done, and the terms may be done for a fixed cost or on the basis of the materials and time expended, subject to negotiations, of course. The SOW declares what expectations and underlying assumptions are associated with the project. Your organization will be legally obligated to deliver what you agreed to in the SOW’s terms when it comes time to formalize the contract.


A Master Services Agreement or MSA serves to define how your company and the other company will work together. One key element of this document will be the terms of payment. The decisions you make on payments timing and amounts will naturally involve your CFO and accounting department, such as whether it would be best to offer a discounted rate to win a particular job or whether your revenue cycle is strong enough to withstand later payment terms that you would otherwise object to.


A contract is the final document that you’ve been working toward so you can begin efforts on the new project. The contract will take into account the various details as specified in the original request for information and may very well be adjusted in a number of ways, based on the parameters that you went through when developing the request for proposal. A contract serves as a legal agreement that your organization and the other party sign. The contract will specify payments and timing of work to be done, as well as any reporting requirements and the duties of the contracting parties.

Expanding your knowledge and skills to move ahead in your career is not a task to take lightly, but it will definitely set you apart from others as you take on more responsibilities in managing projects for your company.

In fact, when it comes to project management, while it will take some time to learn the ropes, you can feel confident that with experience will come greater confidence and the ability to sort out the contract’s needs and requirements in keeping with what your team can deliver. Becoming more familiar with terms such as RFI, RFP, SOW, MSA and how they are different from one another will prepare you to work out the terms of a contract for your next project.