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A Quick Guide to Project Briefs

Learn what a project brief is, elements to include, benefits of briefs, and how they compare to types of project documentation.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Oct 19, 2023
Table of contents

Have you ever worked on a project where a key stakeholder brought up something they thought would be included in the project but wasn’t? Or maybe they thought a project would be completed sooner than it was?

Did that lead to long discussions or email threads where you rehash the project objectives and timeline?

If so, consider using a project brief. A project brief could save hours of communication and confusion, saving you time and providing a concise overview of your project.

What is a project brief?

A project brief is a document a project manager creates to provide stakeholders with a project overview throughout the project. It includes information such as goals, strategies, and timelines. It should not include many project details, such as specific tasks team members will work on. Instead, it focuses on what the team will accomplish and when and why.

It helps to ensure that project team members and stakeholders are on the same page about what the project will accomplish.

What is the difference between a project brief and a project plan?

The project plan includes project goals and deliverables your team needs to complete to accomplish a project. It has a detailed schedule and budget, plus plans on how various aspects of the project are to be managed. It also defines resources, who is responsible for completing each task, and when each task needs to be completed.

The project brief is developed from the project plan. Project briefs are useful for sharing information at the start of a project and throughout the project to give stakeholders an overview of what to expect from a project and how the project team will accomplish the project. The project plan is much more detailed than the project brief.

What is the difference between a project brief and a project charter?

A project manager creates a project charter to gain approval from the sponsor or other authorities for a project to begin. A charter outlines the purpose of a project, scope, and key deliverables and gives permission to begin the project..

After the project is approved, the project manager creates the project plan. Once the plan has been developed, it can be summarized in the project brief. The project brief includes high level information about how the team will accomplish the approved project as defined in the project plan.

What is the difference between a project brief and executive summary?

The executive summary is meant for stakeholders at the executive level, while project briefs are meant more for a general audience.

The executive summary contains information that executives are interested in, such as the project budget, goals of the project, and what resources are being used to accomplish the project.

What is the difference between a project brief and a project roadmap?

project roadmap is a visual representation of a project’s key deliverables, tasks, and milestones on a timeline.

A project brief includes timeline information as a part of its summary in written format.

Elements of a project brief

When creating a project brief, consider using one of the many free project brief templates available online, or create your own template. A template for all projects your organization completes will ensure things stay consistent.

Let’s take a look at the elements to include in a project brief:

Project name

Your project should have a descriptive title.

Project manager

Specify who will be leading the project. Include their contact information so anyone with questions can contact them.

Client information

Document who your team is working on the project for. Include contact information for the client and an overview of the organization.

Project team

List all the members of your team and their project roles. For a large project, this may include only key team leads.

Project goals

What goals will the project accomplish? What success criteria will the team need to meet to consider the objectives a success?

Project timeline

The project timeline should specify the start and end dates of the project. It also would specify key target dates for deliverables.

Project budget

How much does the team have to spend to accomplish the project?

A list of the elements to include in a project brief

‎An example project brief

Let’s create an example project brief. Our website development team will create a graduation registration website for a pretend college, Project Management University. College seniors will use the new system to register for graduation electronically.

Project name

Our project will be called “University Graduation Registration System.”

Project manager

Our project manager is Lucy Smith. She can be reached by cell phone at 440-227-1897 or by e-mail at

Client information

Our client is Project Management University. If the team has questions about the requirements for how the website should work, they should contact Lisa Johnson, the University Registrar. Her office number is 440-222-1111, and her email address is

Project team

Our project team includes our business analyst, Shane Stevenson, who will be responsible for developing our project requirements.

Our developers are Mark Brown and Stephanie Jones, who will be responsible for the programming.

Our QA testers are Trina Marks and Alex Lincoln, who will develop test plans and test the software to find and address any issues. They will send bug reports to the developer and retest fixes.

Project goals

Our website development team must develop a registration system for seniors to register for graduation.

Students should be able to enter data and submit the webpage without errors. The entered data should be displayed correctly on a confirmation page.

To succeed, the website must be up by January 15, 2024, so students can begin registration for the May graduation ceremony.

Project timeline

Our team will start the project on October 1, 2023, and need to complete the project by January 10, 2024. The University would like the team to deliver the project to them a few days before students begin using it on January 15.

Our team will have the following key target dates:

  • Requirements defined by October 10, 2023
  • Programming completed by November 1, 2023.
  • QA testing completed by November 20, 2023
  • Beta testing by customer completed by December 5, 2023
  • Adjustments made based on customer feedback by December 15,2023
  • System implemented for customer by January 5, 2024

Project budget

Our team has a budget of $150,000 to develop the website.

A completed project brief for a website development project

‎Benefits of a project brief

Now that we’ve looked at creating a project brief let’s look at some of the benefits that help ensure project success from the beginning.

Common understanding

When everyone has a common understanding of the goals of a project, the audience, and the project team benefit in many ways.

The project manager can share a preliminary project brief in the kickoff meeting. Everyone will be on the same page about what they aim for from the beginning. Understanding the goals from the beginning means it is less likely after you’ve completed the entire project that a stakeholder will say, “What about this?” If they do, you can refer them back to the brief to review what was agreed upon.

Keeps your team focused

Project stakeholders and team members can ensure they are on the same page about what is essential.

Inevitably, in projects, someone comes up with a great idea of an additional enhancement that would improve the project. Maybe it’s a client's additional request as they review a key deliverable. A team member may brainstorm a great idea as they work on the project.

It can be tempting to say, “I’ll just add this small feature in.” However, when team members start working on additional enhancements to a project, the project will become a victim of scope creep.

For example, a programmer making a small addition to the code also requires additional work by QA to write steps to test the new code in test plans and spend time testing the additional feature. The project may no longer meet its deadline and run over budget.

A listing of benefits of a project brief

‎The team should refer to the goals and what’s to be delivered as defined in the brief (and later, the project plan, to stay on track. Consider adding additional requests or ideas to the backlog for an upcoming project.

Use Motion to keep your project moving

Once you commit to a schedule in your project plan, consider using Motion to keep your project on schedule.

When you enter tasks into Motion's Task Manager, you can specify durations, priorities, dependencies, and deadlines.

Motion's Intelligent Calendar will place the tasks you’ve entered in an optimal spot in a user’s schedule, considering their other priorities. If a user has too many tasks to prevent them from meeting a deadline, Motion will generate an alert. The project manager can then determine a solution to get the task done.

After creating your project brief from your project plan, you can attach the brief to a meeting invitation in Motion to distribute to stakeholders in advance of the meeting. And, Motion will find a time for the meeting that works for everyone’s schedule.

If you are not already using Motion, access a free trial today.

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