How to Write a Project Brief (With Importance and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Professionals usually create extensive plans to implement and execute various projects. They serve as a road map to help lead the team and client in the right direction. Understanding how to write a project plan can help you create a detailed document that guides a project from conception to implementation. In this article, we define a project brief, explore its importance, detail how to write a project plan, provide useful tips, and compare it with other similar documents.

What is a project brief?

A project brief, or project plan, is a file outlining the key ideas of a project. It's a short description of the major elements of a project while summarizing the required process and preferred approach for achieving the goal. It outlines relevant details such as the project goal, vision, objectives, deliverables, required resources, milestones, and project timeline.

The brief also answers the question of what, who, why, and when as regards the brief. Your project plan may vary from time to time, depending on the complexity and scope of your project. Depending on the goal of the project, your project plan can be several pages long or just a summary of a page or two.

Importance of a project plan

Drafting a plan before commencing the project is vital, as it gives the stakeholders a sense of direction on the project. A project plan is important as it helps relevant parties understand the purpose and objective of the project, thereby saving time. It also informs them of their required resources to complete the project. When you outline a project plan, you increase the chances of having a successful project.

How to write a project plan

Here are some of the steps you can take when writing a project plan:

1. Include the company profile

The company profile section is a preliminary section that serves as a soft introduction. The goal is to explain who the client is and how they relate to the project. You can start by detailing an overview of the client's business, industry, geographical location, business segment, product lines, strategies, and major competitors. This information aims to help the team members and stakeholders understand who the brand and client are and what they want. You can also factor in the client's mission and vision to ensure that the project plan aligns with them.

2. Add the background information and project overview

The next part of your project plan contains the background information of the project and details on the scale and scope of the project. It answers background questions and provides context. For example, this section may include details on team members responsible for the project. You may identify potential roadblocks and plans to resolve them. Some of the important questions that a background summary answers are:

  • What's the purpose of the project?

  • What business research, customer needs, or feedback led to this project?

  • Is there any previous project relating to the current one?

  • If applicable, how did you handle previous projects, and what did your team learn?

3. Explain project objectives, scope, and success metrics

An important part of your project plan is the objective of the project. It's a detailed, quantifiable, and realistic set of expectations for the project. In this section, you may define the project and what it isn't. In addition, specify the key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to determine the project's success. Ensure that these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive (SMART) goals. For instance, when setting the project plan for a media company to reach 50% of the target audience, ensure the goal is practicable.

The project objective provides the purpose and helps keep the team motivated as they have something to look forward to in the end. It also serves as a focal point to help the team stay aligned and on track. When team members understand the project's purpose, they feel properly integrated into the team and are willing to contribute more.

Read more: 7 Types of Project Objectives (Plus Tips and Examples)

4. Incorporate project timeline and budget

It's vital to include a budget when planning your project. You can arrive at a budget by running valuations and making projections on the project's financial requirements. You may consider the available resources for the project. Such resources include real tangible materials like raw materials for a construction project or intangible resources like the workforce. Planning the project budget and available resources helps resolve project lags and ensure the project's success.

When drafting your project plan, ensure you include the project timeline. The project timeline defines important periods such as the commencement and the expected completion date of the project. It also includes expected milestones with due dates at different periods in the project. The project timeline helps keep the team accountable as they look forward to the completion date. Generally, completing the project according to the timeline is just as important as completing it.

5. Target audience

Your target audience is primarily the reason you're embarking on the project. You can personalize the project by providing a basic understanding of the target audience. In addition, you may provide details of this target audience for clearer context, such as the demographic, target location, goals, interest, behaviour, and preferences.

Your client can provide these details while you make further research to verify them. Defining your target audience provides context to the project. It provides perspectives on how to meet the needs of the target audience. This also informs other aspects of your project as you build your strategies around the proposed target audience.

Read more: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

Tips for drafting a project plan

Some of the useful tips to consider when drafting a project plan include:

Understand the purpose of a project plan

The first step to take before drafting the project plan is to ensure you understand the project's purpose. Research the client, their background, and mission and understand how the project fits into all of those issues. Schedule meetings with the client to understand the background to the project, how they want to achieve it, and the proposed outcome.

For instance, if your client is a marketing company presenting a media campaign project, you may inquire about why they want to embark on the project. The client may reveal that they want to reach a wider audience, set the benchmark for the campaign, and how the project fits into the brand and long-term goals. It's important that you understand the project before drafting the plan. Understanding the project plan and the company makes it easy to communicate the project to the team and improve results.

Gather content for the project plan

After gaining a basic understanding of the client and the project plan, you may gather important materials for the plan. First, you can conduct client research to get basic information about the client and how they operate. Subsequently, you can conduct market and industry research to provide further information and context to the project. While it's important to conduct your market study and research to gather contextualized information, you can also get insight from already completed research on the internet. Finally, you may get information from the company document of the client.

Related: Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator: What Makes Them Different?

Create an initial draft with a template

It may be significantly difficult for you if it's your first time creating a project plan. You can ease this process by filling in your content into a template. You can find project plan templates on the internet for your first draft. While it's important to include all relevant information, ensure you make room for changes. After discussing it with the client and team members, you may review the content. You may start creating your template from scratch after extensive experience creating business plans.

Project plan vs. other documents

Here's a comparison of a project plan and other similar documents:

Project plan vs. creative brief

A project plan is a document outlining the major elements of the proposed project. In contrast, a creative brief is a creative guide for a project. The creative brief includes the messaging and tone, project audience, timeline, project budget, and distribution process. This brief may also function as a statement of work (SOW) when collaborating with a creative team or third-party agency. This statement of work outlines the scope of your project and expected deliverables. A creative brief usually contains the project design and is typically lengthier than a project plan.

Project plan vs. executive summary

An executive summary is a high-level summary of a project and the expected goals. It's an overview of the project, which you may prepare for stakeholders. While a project plan also provides a summary of a project, it includes additional details and is lengthier than an executive summary. You may include an executive summary when writing a project plan or drafting a business case when preparing for an expansive project with executives. Alternatively, you may draft a project plan when working with co-collaborators on an initiative.

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