Before we discuss what comprises a project description, it's essential to understand what we're trying to describe in the first place, i.e., the project itself. Simply put, a project is a unique and temporary endeavor, with a fixed beginning and end. Every project aims to produce results, and this may be in the form of a product or service. Events can also be considered projects, even something like planning a house party.
Here’s why – first and foremost, it’s an event that you plan with a specific reason in mind (in most cases, it’s catching up with friends). It begins and ends at a defined time, regardless of whether your guests honor it. Lastly, while parties don’t create a product or service, it does have a purpose.
On a more serious note, revamping your organization’s payroll system or putting reward and recognition processes in place can be defined as a project. Also, while defining projects, it’s important that you don’t mistake them with operations or operational activities. For example, creating a monthly social media engagement report is an operational activity, while deciding your social media strategy is a project. Now, let’s talk about project descriptions.
A Project Description is a document that outlines the details of a specific project in a structured format covering all stages of the project and the processes involved in it. A Project Description is drafted quite early in the Project Life Cycle. It is a useful document that could be referred to for a quick understanding of what the project involves, what it aims to accomplish, and how it shall be accomplished.
As a Project Manager, creating this document will be one of your key responsibilities early in the project. This skill will also help you when you want to improve your project management credentials.
Let’s say you had to select an effective email service provider for your company. In that case, how would you feel if your Chief Marketing Officer thought it wasn’t as important or tried to rush the process? Pretty frustrated, because he didn’t get the context or purpose of the activity. Here is where a well-written project description comes into play. Even if your organization isn’t the type that documents such activities, it’s a good idea to create one for your ready reference at the very least.
The following are the criteria that you need to keep in mind while drafting your project description:
Once you’ve understood the criteria mentioned above, you must go through the following steps while writing your project description:
As the name suggests, this section should be simple and short. You should outline the why, what, and how of your project, while keeping it within five lines at the most.
Why did this project come about in the first place? Are there any organizational pain points that you’re trying to relive? Or are you trying to tap into potential business opportunities? Whatever they may be, these are the questions that you must answer for your reader in this section. You should talk about the project’s purpose.
In the description of your project, this is the section your top stakeholders will be looking for. You must justify the reason for the project and convince your reader that it is worth the financial investment being made. It would help if you could map it to certain performance metrics of your department. The more you can convince your stakeholders that your project is essential to the organization’s efforts, the better.
This is a tricky section in the description of your project, because you will be measuring the benefits that you hope to gain against the costs that your organization will incur. Look at it as your typical cost-benefit-analysis. Even while planning a house party, you will think of the consequences of inviting a particular friend over, won’t you?
Here, you must describe the approach that you will take to meet your project’s goals and objectives. You must be mindful of whether your organization has the operational capabilities to support the approach you plan to take. There shouldn’t be a mismatch between what you plan to do and where your organization is at.
This step is crucial because here you must estimate the total time your project will require. You must draw up a plan that shows how many working hours each step of your project requires, along with the number of resources required. Ensure that you put enough thought into this, because your project timeline will help you stay on track for its duration.
Writing a good project description is crucial. Your audience should be able to accurately understand what it’s about. The following are a few tips that can help you.
While writing a project description, it’s important to keep it to the point and be as brief as possible. However, you should still make sure that it’s complete. You should include the project idea, the goals that need to be achieved, the approach that you’re planning to take, and the expected outcomes. Based on its idea and context, you may need to include accurate data as well. Here are some tips on how to write a brief description for a project:
To keep your project description brief, you must use simple and easy-to-understand language. Your sentences should be short and free of complex words. Avoid ambiguous terms or instructions.
Your project description should be to the point while also describing the project fully. Ensure you talk only about your project and its aspects, while avoiding any information about other projects. Such Information will most likely make your reader miss out on important points about the actual project.
Your project description should cover all aspects of the project. It should inform your reader about everything they need to know. It does need to be concise, but not at the cost of missing out on critical points. Your stakeholders should be able to understand the project plan and its context accurately.
In a project description, your project proposal section should give your reader an overview of what you're aiming to do. The questions "What are you trying to achieve?" and "Why are you doing this?" should be clearly answered once anyone finishes reading your project proposal.
As mentioned earlier, the proposal should be clear and precise. It should outline the project background and justification for the same. You should convince the reader about the project's need, and outline what existing efforts have already been put in that area. End strongly by detailing the value-add your project is supposed to bring to the organization.
In a thesis, your project description section is something that you write with the help of your supervisor or guide. Even in a thesis, your project description should answer roughly the same questions we talked about in the last paragraph. It should precisely define the scope of your project. You should outline everything you need to successfully complete a project, and how you are going to go about it. Think of it as a brief based on which you will be judged when your thesis ends.
While writing the project description for your Project Management Professional (PMP)® application, it should be as concise and to the point as possible. The project objective and outcome should both be brief, and your project deliverables should be spread across the various project stages.
As the above article illustrates, a project description is an essential document that provides your audience with a comprehensive overview of the project. Simply put, it is your project in a nutshell. It helps your reader properly understand the project's scope as well as its potential. Think of it as the written version of an elevator pitch. After reading it, the top stakeholders in your organization should be convinced that it is a viable endeavor and worth the financial investment.
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