Project Background

project background: definition and comparisonBackground is one of the key characteristics of a project to explain why initiate the project, what prerequisites are, and what results are supposed to be obtained at the successful completion. The following article is a part of the Implementation Guide to help everyone involved in planning and implementing projects to learn about project background. I suppose this article as well as the whole Guide will be helpful for you. Your valued comments and suggestions are appreciated.

What is Project Background?

Creating a clear and unambiguous background of a project is one of the most important actions to be taken at the very beginning to ensure success of the project at the end. The clearer the background is, the more accurately and understandably the project will be spelled out. Below I give a definition of project background.

A Project’s Background is a formal document containing a common description of what is expected to be done within the project, what prerequisites for the project are, and how to produce the expected amount of work. The document is to be created prior to the implementation process to make a foundation for further goal setting and implementation.

When you develop a background document for your project initiative, you need to regard the following information:

  • Primary focus (what is to be addressed by the project)
  • A list of prerequisites and key reasons for launch
  • A very common description of how to perform the project
  • A plain explanation of the desired outcome

Designing a background document for a project is usually a duty of the project manager. This person considers the information to create a comprehensive background. Along with the document the manager needs to develop a description specifying more information about the project, as compared to the background document.

Project Background vs. Project Description

Sometimes people are confused when using both terms. Someone thinks that there’s no difference between the terms so they tend to regard the project background as the project description, and vice versa. I want you to use only right terminology within your projects so I’d like to note that the terms are not same. They have difference in meaning and purpose. Here’s what I think on this point.

A background of a project is just a simple and short statement of the project, meaning why we need to initiate it and what problems and needs will be addressed once it’s been implemented successfully. We do not say anything about objectives, resources to be allocated, methods to be used, and any other, more accurate information. The purpose of the background is to give an overview of the project for deciding on the need to do the project and for initiating the planning process. When you write a background for your project your primary focus should be placed on giving a general idea and explaining the key prerequisites. This will let your potential investors (sponsors) get the “initial impression” about the project.

A description of a project is a narrative containing a more detailed explanation of the project’s goals and objectives, the definition of the business needs and problems to be addressed, potentials pitfalls and challenges, implementation methods and approaches to be applied, people and organizations interested in and/or impacted by the project. The purpose of the description is to create a foundation for further development and implementation of the project. When you develop a description you should use accurate and specific information to explain the objectives, desired outcome and implementations methods of your future project.


The background of a project is an important document to create an overview of the project activities and goals. For successful planing and management, you should understand the difference between background and description. I hope this article helped you to get a better understnding of the terms. Thanks.

Eric McConnell

Eric is a project manager who has worked on various projects in the software industry for over ten years. He took a variety of roles and responsibilities for planning, executing, performing and controlling software projects and project activities. Today Eric helps software development companies in reviewing and improving their software definition, development and implementation processes. Eric is one of the most honorable contributors of MyManagemetGuide website.

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