Guideline Seven | Describe

7. Draft a clear project description, distinct from the project proposal, that will inform the project and communication plan.

It is essential to represent the project in written form and this is typically achieved in a variety of planning documents. In our view, as well as developing various project plans, describing the project in a carefully worded, short project description is a valuable aid for clarifying and specifying important dimensions of the project.

A project description is different from the project proposal, where the project is described in detail, often using technical language, and a persuasive case is made for support. The project description targets a different audience, often the uninitiated, and aims to state in relatively simple terms what the project is about and how it will operate. In doing this, it serves a number of important purposes. For example, by succinctly describing what the project is about, it reduces the risk of project ‘creep’, develops important links to the project logic and provides a useful framework for reporting progress. Some key areas to include in the project description are:

Description of the project, including;

  • Its overall purpose
  • Why it’s happening – e.g. need/opportunity Objectives and Benefits
  • What it aims to achieve and what it will enable Deliverables
  • What the specific outcomes will be Key Stakeholders
  • Who might affect and be affected by the project Strategy
  • The general approach to achieving objectives that will be followed Resources
  • Funding, people, physical resources Limitations
  • Critical Success Factors
  • Things that must occur for the project to be successful: Risks
  • Things that may inhibit or prevent success KPIs
  • Key metrics and other evidence that will demonstrate the project’s success

The development of a clear, concise project description can be a useful team building exercise which will help to minimise any misunderstandings about the project at an early stage. A well-written project description can also be used as an ‘information leaflet’ for anyone who needs to know, or wants to find out, about the project.