A project brief (or charter) is a short document that defines the key information relating to a proposed project. Projects are often ratified through the approval of the project brief by senior management and/or the funders of the project. Whether your project is small or large, the investment of time in creating a project brief will repay itself many times. It makes you ask and answer the important questions on your project at the outset.
Your project brief should address:
- A name for your project. It is important to give your project an identity
- The objectives of the project. What is the purpose of your project? The WHY!
- A list of deliverables from the project.
- An outline scope of work involved in delivering on the objectives of the project. What needs to be done? Break the project down into smaller chunks that you can work on. Once you have this done, consider the sequence in which you will need to execute them.
- Any assumptions you are making. This may be around the priority the project will be given, or the level of accuracy of certain elements of the costings and other similar important assumption. If the assumptions are true, then the rest of your project planning is correct. If the assumptions are not true, then there will be a potential impact to the scope, timeline or cost of the project.
- Any know risks associated with the project at this point in time.
- Some high level milestones. This may just be a set of 4-5 key milestones for smaller projects and perhaps twice that for larger projects.
- WHO is doing WHAT? High level roles and responsibilities.
- Key measure defining success. Here you should identify the key metrics and what will equate to success. At a minimum, this will include timing, expenditure targets and targeted benefits (savings, capacity enhancement, new facilities etc…)
- Approximate costing and an indication of the level of accuracy of the estimates used.
- Any critical dependency upon other projects.
It may seem like a lot of information, but it is well worth doing. If you have in flight projects that do not have a project brief, then develop a 1-2 page brief for each of them now.
For larger projects, the project sponsor, customer and project manager will approve the project brief. For smaller projects, it may be just the customer and project manager. For solo project, it is a form of contract with your self. The project brief is also referred to as the project charter. They are the same thing and the term can be used interchangeably.
Once the project brief has been agreed, it is essential that it is made available to the complete project team, including external companies that may be working on the project. Make sure you PUBLISH it somewhere that everyone has access to it. And if the drivers for the project change over time, then revise, reapprove and republish an update project brief.