Project specification – make it precise

Project specification – make it precise

The project specification is key to your assignment’s success. This will provide your terms of reference. If you are going to succeed it needs to be an accurate project specificationdescription of what the project aims to achieve. It should set out the criteria for success and how much flexibility you will have in how you achieve it. Your specification should include parameters forthe project; scope, range, outputs, sources, participants, budgets and timescales. Be careful when considering timescales.

Usually you will consult those with an interest in the project. You will agree the project specification with the project sponsor, or whoever is accountable for your assignment. The specification may involve several drafts before it is agreed.  But a clear specification is essential. It provides the measure to which you will be held accountable. The specification is important for potential reviewers so they can assess how the project is going.

A terms of reference framework helps to keep the project on track. It protects the project manager from being held to account for issues that are outside the scope or beyond their control.

Drafting the specification means any special conditions or exceptions can be agreed with those in charge. Once the specification is finalised you have created a very firm set of expectations by which you will be judged. So, if you have any concerns discuss them while the specification is being drafted.

It takes time to produce and agree a complex project’s terms of reference. Simple tasks and projects won’t take long to think through and consult about! But even for simple tasks, getting clear what is expected is important.

A project specification template

This is what a project specification could include:

  • A description of the purpose, aims and “deliverables” agreed for the assignment.
  • A clear statement of timescales, budgets, scope, any agreed constraints and to whom you will be accountable.
  • Who is involved and the way the team will work together. For example, frequency of meetings and the decision-making process.
  • Established ‘break-points’ at which to review and check progress, and how progress and results will be measured.

Make sure you and the person in charge have the same understanding of the specification and what it actually means. You would be surprised how often there can be confusion.

If you need help please get in touch.
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link


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