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A Guide to Creating a Great Project Brief

Read Time:

5 Mins

Useful For:

Project Managers, Marketing Managers, Brand Owners

Whether you are planning a new website or marketing campaign, or you are building a new SaaS platform or mobile app, a great briefing document will help ensure the success of your project. The quality of output is directly tied to the quality of input — garbage in, garbage out. A well-prepared brief for internal teams or third-party vendors will ultimately save valuable time, reduce the risk of errors, cut down on frustrations, and ensure more accurate and expected results.

The Importance of a Great Project Brief

A great project brief helps to ensure all parties have a clear understanding of purpose, scope, budget, and time.

Understanding Purpose

A concise project brief should help readers understand the big-picture goals and background. This context is necessary because a project is usually made up of different activities, and you will ultimately need to ensure that each activity aligns with a central objective. These activities should provide forward momentum and push the project in a common direction, helping to reach important project KPIs.

Align Expectations

Having all of the key details neatly organized in one concise brief helps align the expectations between project owners and execution teams. Projects vary in size and complexity of course, but they often require tracking the fine details to ensure expectations are aligned. Misalignment of expectations can have later consequences on project objectives, the scope of work, budgets, and time schedules.

Reduce Errors & Frustration

An output that doesn’t hit the mark will waste everyone’s time. You will be frustrated, and your vendor will be frustrated. Adding scope to your project that you thought should be included may actually be out of scope according to your vendor (and your contract), so that could cause extra costs, delayed schedules, and awkward conversations.

Get Better Results

All of the key information in one location will help executors do their jobs better. You should be able to reach your objective in a more efficient way, measure the results, and judge success more objectively.

Things That Should Be Included in a Project Brief

Make sure you define the key ingredients in your brief, these usually consist of the following points.

Background & Problem Statement

Provide a short background about your company and your brand. Context is everything, so set the stage first by describing who you are. Then a problem statement can be added to help readers understand the current situation or pain points you may be experiencing. This is often directly linked to the objective of a brief.

Objectives & Success Metrics

Write a clear objective statement that says exactly what you want to accomplish, by what time, and within what budget. The objective statement should be short and measurable. Using the SMART framework can help here. Not familiar with SMART? Make sure your objective hits on the following:

  1. Specific: Should target a specific area of improvement or answer a specific need
  2. Measurable: Must be quantifiable, or at least allow for measurable progress
  3. Attainable: Should be realistic, based on available resources and existing constraints
  4. Relevant: Should align with other business objectives to be considered worthwhile
  5. Time-bound: Must have a clear beginning and end

Target Audience & Competition

Understanding your target audience is critical for delivering something that makes sense for your business. Be specific about your target audience so that the solutions presented can be analyzed against their needs.

List your competition as well, because you ultimately need to keep tabs on what they are doing, but you want to offer a more unique angle by which to approach your target audience. Again, providing context is key, and competition plays a role here.

References & Resources

Prepare some images or reference URLs to share in the brief — a picture is worth a thousand words. Add some description to the references that say what you like about them, and what ideas could be cherry-picked. This will arm vendors with a much clearer idea of what you expect.

Scope of Work

Make sure to create a complete inventory of each item that you expect to receive from the project. List out the work carefully and clearly, and put definitions behind each item. Things that fall outside of this list later may be considered out of scope by a vendor, so making sure you have a complete list is important. This is particularly an important area for creating a great contract where a scope of work should be defined.

Budget & Time

These are two of the most important metrics for any project. Controlling time and budget is a key function of the project manager, and it is important to set these boundaries early in the brief to make sure you are aligned with third-party vendors and internal teams. Time should be 100% transparent — a clear start and finish, with any milestones in between defined. The project budget, or a budget range, should be at least set internally to align with vendor quotes, or even better, publicly in the brief.

The Danger of Not Preparing a Clear Brief

Not preparing a brief will almost certainly lead to some headaches.

Wasted Time & Resources

When you don’t prepare a clear brief, you are likely to not really understand the true purpose of running the project in the first place — or you risk being unable to clearly communicate it to a third party. It will be easy to become fragmented and unaligned with a central goal. Also, you will likely not have answers to simple questions that get asked regarding objectives, time, budget, etc. It’s easy to get lazy and try to just describe what you want to achieve, but putting it into a structured document will help you become laser-focused, and will ultimately make you a better communicator.

Missed Important Information

Unless you use a template or structured approach to creating a project brief, it will be quite easy to forget to include important information that a vendor should know before beginning. A great vendor will extract the information from you, or they should, but many do not. Forgetting to include an important milestone, key competitor, or critical marketing asset needed in the deliverables could create headaches.

Extra Out-of-Scope Charges Incurred

Money speaks louder than anything else for a lot of companies. Forgetting to list out the fact that you need your website to have dual languages, for example, could be considered out-of-scope by a vendor. Adding that functionality to a website costs time and money. Who will absorb those costs?

Unable to Measure Success

Without a clear problem and objective statement, and some simple metrics to measure success, it will be difficult later to understand if a project is successful or not. It becomes too subjective to try and judge success after a project has been completed without predefined goals.

Final Thoughts

If you are a project owner, spend a good amount of effort creating a clear and concise project brief — this will do a lot of heavy lifting for you. Vendors you work with will be more likely to accept the projects as they will feel things are very clear from the beginning, and that has a lot to say about how the project may also be run. Getting lazy and expecting to just talk about what you need on a call is risky business. It will be incredibly easy to miss important topics and requirements, and it will likely cost you later.

Get a Great Project Brief Template in Notion

Get a free Notion template to help structure your next project brief. Tailor it as you need per your industry and company.

It is your lucky day! We created a project brief template in Notion that you can use and customize as you like. Just duplicate the template and move it to your Notion workspace. We hope this template helps you create more well-defined project briefs.

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