Project Management

Help for writing a project brief

It's bigger than an outline but smaller than a proposal. What is it? It's a project brief. Find out the ingredients for creating a successful project brief.

The project brief might be described as the bird’s-eye view of the IT project. The depth of your explanations and explorations depends on the type and magnitude of the project described.

TechRepublic member Jimmy has been asked to write a project brief and doesn’t know where to begin. He posted a plea for help in our Technical Q&A. Read on for a primer about writing project briefs and a list of resources that may help Jimmy, or you, tackle the task.

What is a project brief?
According to Cornerstone Software’s Web site, which was recommended to Jimmy by member Maxwell Edison, a project brief should focus on the “big picture,” while ensuring that the breadth of the problem is stated. A company that is planning to hire a consultant for a particular project may first prepare a project brief. The consultant may then flesh out the project brief with his or her recommendations.

The parts of a project brief
Cornerstone’s site recommends that any project brief contain these five main sections:
  1. Overview: The Overview section explains what the project is expected to achieve and how it will improve the existing problem or situation.
  2. Organization: The Organization section defines the key players and their roles, including the key financial personnel.
  3. Critical Success Factors: The Critical Success Factors section discusses factors, outlined in terms of timelines and vital performance or functionalities, that the project must achieve to be considered a success.
  4. Related Projects: The Related Projects section explores how any developing initiatives may affect the project or its goals.
  5. Breakdown/Decomposition: The Breakdown/Decomposition section explains how the project would be segmented into related pieces or phases.

Questions to answer when writing a project brief
The Web site of the Department of Local Government and Regional Development for Western Australia, CommunityWise, has a section devoted to writing project briefs. The site recommends that project briefs cover who, what, when, where, why, and how. The site suggests that answering the questions in the following six groups will help you write your project brief.
  1. Why is the project being undertaken? What is the background of the problem or situation that has prompted the organization to go ahead with the project?
  2. What is required of the project? What are the aims, objectives, and budget available for the project?
  3. Who is involved in the project? What portions will consultants undertake? What will your in-house staff be responsible for? What in-house staff resources are available? Will the project require day-to-day supervision? Will a steering committee need to be appointed?
  4. When is the project to start and finish? What are the dates of each phase of the project? Describe a detailed work plan for the project.
  5. Where is the project to be carried out? What is the scale and scope of the project? Where are the key geographic locations involved?
  6. How will the project be carried out? What methodology is required to collect and analyze the information? What is the time frame for its completion? What performance indicators will help to monitor and evaluate the project? What is the level of confidentiality for the project and its final report? Who will manage the project and its reporting requirements? Who will prepare the presentation of the final report, and what format and level of detail is required? Who will retain ownership and copyright of the final report and working papers?

TechRepublic resources
Locating and organizing all this information can be a headache without the right tools. TechRepublic has many downloadable templates that may help you put together a dynamite project brief. For starters, check out these tools:

You can find many more related tools and templates in our searchable download center.

Send us your samples and templates
Do you have a sample project brief or project brief template you’d like to share with the TechRepublic audience? Send it to us. If we publish it, we’ll send you a TechRepublic T-shirt.

 
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