The purpose of the project brief is to provide the foundation upon which the project rests. It establishes the parameters under which the project is initiated, as well as the stakeholder inputs into the initiation phase. It is prepared by the project manager, reviewed by the senior users and suppliers, and approved by the executive.
The contents of the project brief are refined into the Project Initiation Document (PID) after which it is no longer maintained.
The Project Brief contains the following information:
- Project definition
The project manager identifies the broad outlines of the project, things like whether a piece of equipment will be purchased or outsourced. Project background, objectives, desired outcomes, and scope are identified
- Outline business case
An overview of why the project was needed and the underlying business goals.
- Project product description
An overview of the final product or service which the project must produce, including any user quality or user acceptance criteria.
- Project approach
An overview of the processes and procedures that the project will employ to achieve its objectives. Although the processes won’t be fully defined until the Project Plans are produced, any parts that are clearly defined at this stage are included in the project brief.
- Project management team structure
An organizational chart (or textual format) showing who the project leadership team will be, to the extent that it has been defined at this stage.
- Role descriptions
The roles that the project management team (or project team) will play, to the extent that it has been defined.
Any reference to other projects or corporate experience that need to be considered by the project.
Since the project brief is the first project document to be produced for the project, the information that is it derives from is entirely outside the project.
The following items form the materials upon which the project brief is produced.
- Project mandate
The corporate or organizational level provides the mandate, that is, the items that the project is expected to accomplish.
- Program management
If a project is part of a program (series of projects), the program management level will dictate project requirements which form part of the project brief.
- Discussions with corporate, program management, or customer
The greater organization which initiated the project, and the customer or client of that organization, supplies the high level requirements of the project, which are codified in the project brief.
- Discussions with the project board
The project board provides its input into the high level objectives of the project.
- Discussions with operations and maintenance
Once the project is complete, the people who will maintain and service the product will take over. Hence, they are consulted to determine their requirements for a successful product.
- Discussions with suppliers
The suppliers who will produce the project’s end product are consulted to ensure that the most important issues are identified in the project brief.
Format and Presentation
There is no specified format for a project brief. It can take any format that accomplishes its objectives, including:
- Word processor document
- Presentation slides
- Entry in a project management tool
The project brief is judged by the following quality criteria:
- It is brief, because its purpose is to provide a firm basis on which to initiate the project. It will later be refined and expanded into the PID.
- It accurately reflects the project mandate and the requirements of the business and end users.
- The project approach considers a range of solutions, such as contracted out or developed in-house; or designed from scratch or modified from an existing product.
- The project approach maximizes the chance of achieving project success.
- The project objectives approaches are consistent with the organization’s social responsibility directive.
- The project goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART)