Project Background Definition and Writing Tips
The background is one of the key characteristics of a project to explain why to initiate the project, what prerequisites are, and what results are supposed to be obtained at the successful implementation.
The background of a project is very important, especially when the project is being done for the first time and there is no previous experience to draw upon. This article gives an insight into the importance of a good project background and what should be included in it.
What is Project Background?
Creating a clear and unambiguous background for a project is one of the most important actions to be taken at the very beginning to ensure the 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 the project background.
A Project’s Background is a formal project management 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. This document is created prior to the project implementation process to make a foundation for further goal setting and planning.
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 the 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 the 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 the right terminology within your projects, so I’d like to note that the terms are not the same. They have a 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 outcomes, and implementation methods of your future project.
How to Write a Project’s Background
A good background document should meet the above-mentioned basic information, so you should include the following essentials in it:
1) A short and comprehensive description of what work needs to be done
You need to explain the objectives, problems, and needs that will be addressed by the project. It’s a common practice to define the major deliverables of the project and the reason for initiating it. You should also specify the stakeholders and their roles in the project delivery process.
2) A list of prerequisites and their importance
Prerequisites are the conditions that you need to achieve before implementing our project. You might need to complete some studies, define the scope or deliverables, or solve some technical difficulties.
Here you need to specify these prerequisites and give an idea of their importance. You should also provide a brief explanation of what each prerequisite means and does in relation to the main aim.
3) An overview of how to perform the project
You need to briefly explain how the project will be performed, what resources will be used to complete the work, and what methods will be applied. You don’t need to go into much detail here.
Your description should be brief and to the point. Specify that a project is going to be done (its design and implementation stages) in a specific time frame and what actions will be taken during each stage.
4) A list of the main results
Results are the direct gains you will receive from doing the project. You should include these results in your description because they are very important for further management and decision-making.
The main results (deliverables) can be both tangible and intangible. Tangible results include the launch of a new product, merchandising platform or service, etc. On the other hand, the intangible results can be improved a company’s performance indicators such as cash flow, profitability, etc.
5) A short description of the project’s impact
You need to explain the direct and indirect effects of the project. In this section, you should include what your project is going to do to improve the company’s performance, both financial and non-financial.
For example, it can be a good idea to include information on which segments or customer groups will be helped by the new product. You should also explain how your project is going to affect other companies and how it will affect the economy in general.
The background document is the first step to getting the project going. The project background should meet the basic information, like the “what and why” of the project. We need to describe the immediate and long-term goals, organization, and leadership team, plus decide on prerequisites and methods used. The background should be brief and concise, but it should provide enough information to make a future decision on whether to do the project or not.
The project description assumes that we have decided to initiate the project. In this case, it should include all the relevant information about what exactly will be done and how to manage the work, potential risks and challenges, resources, methods and approach to be used, schedule of implementation, and budget estimation.