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What Is a Project Brief?

At its core, a project brief should communicate your project approach and the process your team will use to manage the project according to scope. Although a project plan is arguably the most important document created on your project, any good plan starts with a project brief.

If handled with care and great consideration, a good brief should act as an agreement on project objectives, scope, major deliverables, milestones, timing, activities, process, and even resources needed to deliver your product. If you take the time to create a good process around how your project brief is built you can create a great plan that will work for everyone.

How to Create a Project Brief in 4 Simple Steps

  1. Step One: Start with a solid project plan.
  2. Step Two: Understand the project brief’s purpose.
  3. Step Three: Gather the contents for a project brief.
  4. Step Four: Draft a project brief using a template to save time.

Step One: Start with a solid project plan

You could easily slap together a document that shows dates and deliverables, but if you’re managing a project that has a hefty budget, lofty goals, and a whole lot of decisions attached to it, you’ll find that it’s important to take the time to make a detailed project plan.  

With the right amount of background information on your project’s scope and requirements—and with a good level of input and collaboration with your team and your clients—you can make a solid, workable plan that will guide everyone through your project. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be difficult to create. On its own, to many, a project plan is a dry document that lists dates. To people who are invested in your project, the plan is the project guide that will dictate how you will get to project milestones, decisions, and eventually project completion. At a minimum, a project plan answers basic questions about the project:

  • What are the major deliverables?
  • How will we get to those deliverables and the deadline?
  • Who is on the project team and what role will they play in those deliverables?
  • When will the team meet milestones, and when will other members of the team play a role in contributing to or providing feedback on those deliverables?

Look at it this way: Your plan should educate any reviewer —coworkers and clients included—on the logistics of the project. They trust that you’ve got this, so when reviewing the document, they truly believe that you’ve considered every possible risk. And if you have, it feels good to know that you’ve done a good job and you’re trusted. The first step in creating a good plan is drafting up a good project brief to go over with the client.

Step Two: Understand the Project Brief’s Purpose

If you’ve ever planned a road trip, you know you can’t map out your journey until you determine your destination. A project’s no different: You can’t hit the ground running—or even establish a plan for execution—until you know what the project entails. That’s where a project brief comes in.

While a project plan outlines how a project will get done, a project brief defines the who, what, when, where, and why, setting clear expectations for stakeholders on the front end. Think of it as the “true north” that keeps your project on track. Once work begins, you can use the project brief to help prevent scope creep and guide decisions all the way to completion.

Step Three: Gather the Contents for a Project Brief

Quite often, you’ll receive a ton of project details. Pages upon pages of requirements, team biographies, invoicing instructions, contractual clauses, and the like. It’s very critical that you read through all of that documentation. But when it comes to creating a plan, this is what you need to know to create a project brief. No matter what type of project you’re managing, you need to recap the following items in your project brief:

  • Project goals
  • The client or team’s intended process or methodology
  • The team and their expertise
  • Expectations on deliverables
  • Expectations on iteration and collaboration when creating and revising deliverables
  • Who the client stakeholder team is, and specifically who the main decision-makers are
  • The amount of time the client will need to review work and provide feedback
  • Dependencies
  • Deadlines

Never leave any of these project brief items unanswered. If you’re responsible for creating the project plan, that means that you must be sure that all of these factors have been considered. If you don’t, the project will definitely hit a bump in the road, and every finger will be pointed at you. By creating a project brief at the start, it will get all project stakeholders on the same page.

For instance, if you have not fully explored the decision-making process, there is a great chance that you’ll encounter the good old “swoop and poop” during the process. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a stakeholder you weren’t aware of swoops into the project at the 11th hour and poops on the work—putting you back at square one. It’s a budget and timeline nightmare that will become a reality if you don’t practice your due diligence

Just remember, you can get as much info as possible, but details can change. Do your best to document the information you have so you can account for it in your plan.

Step Four: Draft a Project Brief With Our Template to Save Time

Now that you’ve started with a solid plan, understand a project brief’s purpose, and gathered all the appropriate information for a successful brief, it’s time to make your draft. Check out the project brief example below. This sample shows how to present all of the important information in an easy-to-read and digestible format.

Want to use this brief format for your upcoming projects? Download this project brief template here:

Just remember, project briefs are used across a variety of industries. The information you include on your brief will depend on the type of project you’re executing. For example, a web design brief might list pages in the site map, a creative brief might outline pieces of marketing collateral, and a construction project brief might itemize rooms and square footage. Just be sure to define your project as clearly as possible, so everyone knows what is (and isn’t) in scope.

Once you’ve built your thorough project brief, use TeamGantt to create an interactive project plan for free!

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