In project management, a project specification document (also called the project charter) is a valuable tool when starting any kind of project, from construction to software development.
Whether you're planning to launch a website, a mobile application, or any other type of digital project, writing a project specification is the first step of a successful project and serves as the first step of project planning.
To help you write one with ease, you will discover in this article what a project specification is, how to write one, project specification examples, a free template to get you started and a list of the best software you can use to manage your projects.
Free project specification template
Now that you have learned the key steps you should include and seen project charter examples, you can now begin writing your own project charter.
Here is a free template to get you started:
Project specifications: definition
What are project specifications?
A project specification is a document, used for successful project management, that defines the management plan of a project as a whole. It lists the needs, objectives, constraints, expected features, deadlines and budget as accurately as possible.
Used internally or externally, a project specification can become contractual in the case of a service signature, and it is mandatory in the case of a request for tender.
Here is a short video that explains what a project charter is:
What is the purpose of writing down project specifications?
Project specifications can be used to :
- get authorisations to start a building project,
- think about objectives and set them,
- assign the priorities of the project,
- help key stakeholders give you more relevant advice,
- estimate the budget, resources and project deliverables necessary to the successful completion of a project.
In concrete terms, this documentation will serve as a basis for the planning and management of a project. The development process cannot start without comprehensive project specifications.
Who writes the project specification?
Ideally, project specifications should be written by the company that initiates the project. It can be the project manager or the project owner to :
- reflect the corporate culture and company values better than an outside person,
- stay as close as possible to the needs of the end-user.
Don't hesitate to surround yourself with experts that can give you advice, but you must also collect information from end-users and clients, because they will, after all, be the ones who use the solution.
If you’ve hired a third-party contractor, such as a web agency, all you have to do is validate the various elements and make sure that the scope of the project has been covered.
10 elements to include in your project specification
If this is your first time creating this type of documentation, we recommend including the information you find most beneficial. It is important to note that the more detailed you make your project charter, the more convincing it will be and it will serve as a key reference for all project stakeholders, as well as the timeline for effective project execution.
Find below a list of 10 things you should include in your project specification.
1. Present the company
This first part gives a quick description of the company so that the third-party contractor understands the identity of his customer. The presentation should include:
- your sector of activity,
- your core business,
- your flagship products or services,
- key project stakeholders.
Here, you should not go too much into detail, you should mainly list the key information about your company so that a person can understand in a few lines your project goals.
2. Present the project
Next, it is important to present the project.
Name your project
To begin, you must use a descriptive title when naming your project. For example, naming your project “Business Campaign” may not be relevant as it does not describe the purpose of the project nor does it differentiate said project from others.
However, if a title such as “International Business Campaign to Generate new Leads in Europe” is used, you will inform readers about the goal of the campaign right away.
Identify the context
The aim here is to explain the ins and outs of the project "body of knowledge" so that all the project stakeholders understand the issues and work to respond to them as well as possible.
Each project has different goals. This is why it is essential to know them in order to move in the right direction and make the right decisions. Your objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound).
3. Set your target
By describing your target(s) accurately, you will have a high chance of reaching them. This is not an easy exercise to do, but it will save you a lot of time once you have done the work.
Describe your marketing persona, i.e. the fictitious profile of your ideal customer, with as much information as possible (age, interests…).
To glean this information, you can :
- ask your customers questions;
- analyse information from your prospects;
- read the discussions on the forums dealing with their problems;
- collect more precise information via the use of contact or download forms.
4. Identify your competition
In order to position your project successfully, you need to know your main and secondary competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as your Unique Selling Points.
Then, you are free to determine your positioning by offering something fundamentally new or better.
5. Use a graphic charter
It is recommended to write this part when you already have a graphic charter and you want to keep it for the project. It can also be used if you want to create a new graphic chart that is in line with the previous one.
6. Set your project budget
Break down the project cost structure and where the funds will come from. This section could also list any additional estimated resources and materials needed to execute your project and ensure it meets your standards.
7. Set a completion time
Set a deadline by which the project must be launched. As with the budget, don't underestimate the time required to complete each element, and be realistic.
For complex projects, do not hesitate to set different milestones and make a schedule in the form of a Gantt chart.
8. List functional specifications
The functional part of the project charter is used to translate project requirements into functionalities.
It is recommended to go as much in detail work breakdown to ensure that the functionalities are well understood and the project scheduling up to par with your expectations.
Describe each functionality as follows:
- constraints and business rules,
- level of priority.
9. List technical specs
The technical part consists of describing how the functionalities will be implemented, and are especially important in the case of software development.
Moreover, this part highlights the technical requirements and constraints of the project to meet the needs of end-users.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of elements that can be used:
- online payment methods,
- hosting solution,
- server architecture,
- choice of platform or CMS,
- administration tools,
- integration constraints,
- computer language,
- data security management,
- browser or operating system compatibility
- expected performance (loading times, general speed…)
Here you should put all the documents and detailed information that are required to complete the project. These may include wireframes, mock-ups, drafts, etc.
Project specification examples
Since project charters can be adapted according to the type of project you use and its complexity, therefore, it is recommended to consider different examples of project charters before writing your own. Here are two project charter examples that may inspire you to design your own.
Best tools to help you build your project specification
Creating project charters with Lucidchart
Lucidchart is an online diagram software that allows you to visually build your project specifications.
Thanks to its intuitive interface, you can use Lucidchart to create project charters and diagrams. Drag and drop shapes in the work area, then complete them with your information (you can import your data from a CSV file) and customize diagrams to your preference.
Monday.com: an all-in-one project management software
Once you have created your project charter, it is essential to keep track of the completion of your project with a dedicated tool.
Monday.com is an intuitive project management platform that allows you to manage any team and any project while creating a more transparent work culture.
Thanks to its system of customisable tables, you can manage your tasks and subtasks using a visual and intuitive tool. Once you have identified your projects, assign each of them the necessary resources and budget.
This project management tool goes one step further, by providing time management features (to meet the deadlines of your projects) and by offering different views of your tables, with a Gantt chart for example.
Accurate project specifications and agile management to anticipate evolutions
Project specifications are essential to building a framework for your project and helping you to reflect and formalize your needs and objectives. They allow you to communicate with team members and project stakeholders in the project so that everyone can make informed decisions in a collaborative work environment.
However, you must accept that the project may evolve, either because new external elements change the situation or because it is difficult to be exhaustive and perfectly express your needs.
This is where working with an agile method is interesting because it allows you to present a functional version of the product as soon as possible which will allow you to make adjustments to the project charter.