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Tech Project Management - Project Definition, An Introduction

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The Project Proposal has been approved. What next? The project must now be defined in greater detail.

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from chapter 4 of Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, by Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch.

The project definition includes the creation of:

  • The Project Charter
  • The Marketing Requirements Document (MRD)
  • The Budget
  • The Statement of Work (SOW)

The flowchart in Figure 4.1 shows the project definition workflow process from the proposal being approved through to project approval.

If the project is for an external client, a contractual agreement is usually drawn up between the two parties. The reason for this agreement is that in the event that the project is cancelled after the definition documents are complete, the vendor can charge the client for the time spent working on them. This can amount to a substantial amount of work for quite a few members of the proposed project team. The contractual agreement offers a level of protection to the development company by ensuring monetary compensation for time spent as well as dissuading the client from working with multiple vendors on the definition of the project at the same time. If they are not charged for the time, then they have nothing to lose by wasting the vendors’ time on projects that they have little, or no, intention of awarding them.

Tech Project Management - Project Definition, An Introduction - Figure 1 

Figure 4.1: Project Definition Flowchart

Project Charter

Subsequent to the approval of a Project Proposal, a client meeting will be held to create a Project Charter Document. A Project Charter is also referred to as a Project Brief. A client may be an external client, where your company is being contracted to develop the product or service for them. Alternatively, the client may be an internal customer, for instance where a technology company is developing a new product for its own product line. The key people involved in the project are defined in the Project Charter. The Project Charter is a “must have” for all projects no matter how large or small. This document is the basis on which successful project plans are built. It provides specific agreements, including budgets and schedules, to which all team members will commit. It is used as a major input to the detailed resource and development plans that are created as each phase of the lifecycle is planned (planning, design, development, integration, deployment, and post-deployment).

The Project Charter Document will be used in conjunction with the Marketing Requirements Document as the foundation for creating the initial technical requirements documents for the product. The lack of a Project Charter Document can lead to poor communication, misunderstanding, and potential confusion. The failure to have a formalized plan can put the project at high risk. Everyone involved in the project needs to have clear and specific goals outlined before the project is kicked off. The whole team needs to understand the “big picture” as well as the specifics for their individual contributions.

The clear and accurate definition of a project and its objectives is extremely important to a project’s success. Defining the project, specifying the scope, and developing a common vision of the project objectives and deliverables are synonymous with effective planning.

Producing a quality Project Charter Document requires following specific steps and a lot of attention to detail. The amount of detail necessary for the Project Charter

Document will depend on the size and complexity of the project. The document must include specifically what will and will not be delivered. Before starting work on the Project Charter, it is imperative that you have written approval from the client (who can be an external company or an internal department or group). After all, they will be billed for the time, so they need to agree to pay for it!

The Project Charter comprises the following sections:

  • Project Name
  • Client Name
  • Decision Makers
  • Project Description and Goals
  • Business Case
  • Key Business Requirements
  • Project Objectives
  • Benefits
  • Target Audience
  • The Problem
  • The Solution
  • Project Scope
  • Prerequisites
  • Assumptions
  • Project Constraints
  • Project Risks
  • Time and Costs
  • Project Organization
  • Project Charter Approval

It is the project manager’s responsibility to create the Project Charter Document. In this chapter, I will lead you through each section of the Project Charter Document and give you the information and the tools you need to both understand and create it!

Next time we will discuss: Creating the Project Charter Documents.

Want to learn more about project management best practices now?  Pick up your own copy of Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, by Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch - available and on sale at the MC Press Bookstore today!

Colleen Garton

Colleen Garton is a highly respected and experienced writer, consultant, and speaker. She is the author of two management books: Fundamentals of Technology Project Management and Managing Without Walls. Recognized internationally as an expert on virtual and global management, Colleen is an experienced and in-demand public speaker for numerous events and conferences around the world. She is also author of the blog Working With or Without Walls.

 Colleen has extensive management and training experience in the United States and internationally, with more than two decades of practical experience in traditional and virtual management spanning multiple industries. She is the owner of the Garton Consulting Group. Before founding the Garton Consulting Group, Ms. Garton held senior management positions at some major U.S. corporations.

You can follow Colleen on Twitter at @ColleenGarton and on Facebook.


MC Press books written by Colleen Garton available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Fundamentals of Technology Project Management Fundamentals of Technology Project Management
Master the specific project management issues that technology professionals must face.
List Price $69.95

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Managing Without Walls Managing Without Walls
Optimize the effectiveness of your teams...no matter where they are.
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