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What Is the Project Initiation Document?

Page Coleman
Page Coleman

A project initiation document (PID), or project brief, is used in project management to highlight the project’s plan of approach. Specific sections of a PID varies among organizations and project methodology. Generally, they each cover some key information that describes the project, including the definition, case, deliverables, constraints, risk, members, communication plan, project tolerance, and signatures.

The project definition is a key section in the documentation. It will describe the project’s goals, objectives, and desired outcomes, how each will be measured, and the scope of work to be completed. The project initiation document should clearly state the features to be included and excluded.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

A business case is essential for the project. This section must clarify the value the project is expected to deliver to the organization in return for the cost. If a project cannot provide enough benefits to justify its expense and effort, it will likely not be funded.

Project deliverables should be documented. Deliverables may include program code or other products and services that result from the project. They may also include other documents, such as business requirements, test plans, and training manuals.

The PID should list any constraints facing the project. Constraints are external factors that may affect the project but are outside the project manager’s control. Assumptions, such as a third-party software developer delivering code, should be documented as well.

All projects have risks. The project manager must identify the risks document them using a risk register or log. Risks should be monitored and prevented or mitigated when possible. The project manager should develop plans to manage those that can’t be prevented.

A list of personnel and a timeline are also key components of a project initiation document. Roles and responsibilities should be listed with each project member. The project planning section provides an overview of the timeline for the delivery of critical pieces of work.

An organization may include a communication plan in a PID. This plan might include various meetings to be held with team members. It might also document expected communications to executive management and to end users who may be affected by the project.

Many organizations establish project tolerances. The tolerances relate to the actual amount of work and expense incurred by the project against the plan. A project that is not operating within the allowed variance of its planned timeframe and budget may be subject to additional management overview. This information might also be included in the project initiation document.

Most PIDs have an area for signatures. Executives and managers must usually sign the document. Their signature indicates that they will support the project through funding or devoting employees to work on it.

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