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Project brief


A Project Brief is used to provide a full and firm foundation for the initiation of the project and is created in the Starting up a Project process.

In the Initiating a Project process, the contents of the Project Brief are extended and refined in the Project Initiation Documentation, after which the Project Brief is no longer maintained.

For construction projects, the Project Brief is a formal statement of the objectives and functional and operational requirements of the finished project. It should be in sufficient detail to enable the construction team to execute the detailed design and specification of the work and is therefore an essential reference for the construction team.

The Project Brief is a key document in its own right. It is the basis of the Project Initiation Documentation, which gives the direction and scope of the project and forms the 'contract' between the project team and corporate or programme management. Any significant change to the material contained in the Project Brief will thus need to be referred to corporate or programme management.

For construction projects the Project Brief is a key component of the Project Execution Plan.

Fitness for purpose content:

The Project Brief should be brief and should address the following points:

  • Does it form a firm basis on which to initiate a project? 
  • Does the Project Brief accurately reflect the mandate for the project and the requirements of the business and the users? 
  • Does it indicate how the customer will assess the acceptability of the finished product(s)? 
  • Does the project approach consider a range of solutions, such as: bespoke or off-the-shelf; contracted out or developed in-house; designed from new or a modified existing product? 
  • Has a project approach been selected which maximizes the chance of achieving overall success for the project?
  • Are the project objectives, project approach and strategies consistent with the organisation"s corporate social responsibility directive?
  • Are the project objectives Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART).

Suggested contents:

Project definition, explaining what the project needs to achieve. It should include:

  • Background 
  • Project objectives (covering time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefit performance goals) 
  • Desired outcomes 
  • Project scope and exclusions 
  • Constraints and assumptions 
  • Project tolerances 
  • The user(s) and any other known interested parties 
  • Interfaces

Outline Business Case, reasons why the project is needed and the business option selected. This will later be developed into a detailed Business Case during the Initiating a Project process.

Project Product Description, including the customer"s quality expectations, user acceptance criteria, and operations and maintenance acceptance criteria.

Project approach, to define the choice of solution that will be used within the project to deliver the business option selected from the Business Case, taking into consideration the operational environment into which the solution must fit.

Project management team structure, a chart showing who will be involved with the project.

Role descriptions for the project management team and any other key resources identified at this time.

References to any associated documents or products.

Source information:

The Project Brief is developed from the mandate for the project identified at the start of the project.

Programme management - if the project is part of a programme, the Project Brief is likely to be supplied by the programme, and therefore it will not have to be derived from a project mandate.

Discussions with corporate management regarding corporate strategy and any policies and standards that apply.

Discussions with the Project Board and users if the project mandate is incomplete or if no project mandate is provided.

Discussions with the operations and maintenance organisation (if applicable).

Discussion with the (potential) suppliers regarding specialist development lifecycles that could be used.

Lessons Log.

Format and Presentation:

A project Brief can take a number of formats, including:

  • Document or presentation slides
  • Entry into a project management tool.

Further Information:

See the briefings on programme and project management; see also document outlines for project plan, project initiation document and project execution plan.

Managing successful programmes

Managing successful projects with PRINCE 2

Achieving Excellence Guides 1-10

Guide to the Appointment of Consultants and Contractors