We have made the case several times now that there is a need for stronger mobilisation in projects today. Although there are many actions you can take to prepare your project before its kick-off, one of the most effective ways to make an instant improvement is to develop your project brief into a more valuable document. Some projects won’t list a project brief but there is always a document serving the purpose of one: sometimes called a Term of reference or Project Initiation Document, for example. As mentioned in one of our other articles “Actions Your Organisation Can Take to Improve Project Mobilisation”, this article will cover the fundamentals of writing an effective project brief style document.
What is a project brief?
A project brief is essentially the primary document and reference you will create before a project mobilises. It should offer a summary of all the project ideas and highlight key targets, milestones, scope and an overview of the work that needs to be done. This is for the benefit of all stakeholders as a single document that can contain all the critical information relevant to the project
The project brief will need to be ready before the project is fully mobilised. You may be able to leave a few details out as you assemble team members and resources but information missing from the project brief at kick-off could be information missing to all stakeholders. Many PM’s will link their project brief with the work breakdown structures (WBS) and/or Project Proposals as it contains the most fundamental understanding of what the project contains and acts as a reliable reference moving forward.
Why does it matter?
The project brief is especially important to the client as it keeps them informed on exactly what the project needs and is aiming to deliver. With a project brief all vital information gets put in one place so you can stay on the same page as your PM. This makes it easier to trust each other and be more comfortable that the project is running smoothly.
It will also help a PM coordinate their team and gain their input on any decisions or risks the project may be taking. The project brief acts not only as a reference between stakeholders later in the project but also as a starting point for those involved in development.
How do you create a project brief?
Best practices for writing a project brief are actually relatively simple: you simply need to cover the basic points that are needed to fully understand the what, when, and how of the project.
· Rationale – what is the purpose of the project? Make sure this can be communicated in a few sentences and explains the justification for the project’s existence and costs
· Summary – How is the team going to complete the project? How is the project going to be structured? How and when is everyone going to be involved? This summary will need to create an overview of the timeline of the project, with an estimated end date.
· Resources – This section benefits most from thorough research. It will be much easier to get support and cooperation for the project if sponsors can feel more confident about not exceeding budgets. This is especially important when it comes to team member selection, getting the people you need can be the most difficult aspect of resourcing and can be supported by thorough understanding of your project and organisation
· Stakeholders – Make sure every stakeholder is mentioned and kept in the loop about project progress and their duties within the project. This will give you a chance to assess which stakeholders can create the most external influence to support the project as it develops.
· Scope and Deliverables – Be clear about what the project will and won’t be achieving. This is very important for a PM as it helps other stakeholders clarify duties and expectations. Keep deliverables as real as possible: make the goals measurable and specific.
· Dependencies – highlight key support necessary for the project to be completed and when they are needed. This will help highlight the urgency of certain tasks over others and effects between this project and competing projects.
· Risks – Be honest, clearly explain the pitfalls that the project is susceptible to. Try and categorise these by both their likelihood and consequent impact once they do occur. This will not only build trust between stakeholders but allow to prepare contingencies more easily.
An extra tip for creating your project brief is to avoid leaving it as job just for the project sponsor or PM to write it independently – bring this job to your whole team and utilise all the resources available to you. Developing the Project Brief independently of your team will encourage critique rather than collaboration during the creation process.
Having all this information in one place may seem obvious but too many projects are not interested in investing in project brief research; only to struggle with coordination and meeting stakeholder expectations as the project develops. It is arguably one of the most important jobs as a PM to collect information on all the topics above and ensure it can all be documented in one place. The resources invested into creating a strong project brief could be the most valuable investment made in the whole project as hidden costs, risks and opportunities are discovered and dealt with early.
If you are interested in improving your organisation’s projects through stronger mobilisation get in touch with our team at www.i2a.co.uk/contact for advice and support.