Why Your Project Needs a Strategic Brief

Coffee mug with the word "Begin" sitting on a wooden table with wooden chairs in the background

Projects that incorporate a discovery phase are set up for success from the start. Sometimes it’s a single kick-off meeting with the client’s core team to discuss the requirements for the project. Other times it’s a series of focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders.

Inevitably, we observe some key themes during our discovery process that stand out in our minds and show up repeatedly in our notes. One of the biggest mistakes we can make, however, is jumping right into the work without documenting these themes for everyone involved in the project.

Executing project work without first evaluating discovery outcomes could result in many issues down the road. Some examples:

  • Confusion among team members about what needs done and why
  • Tools and systems were not put into place to complete the work on time and on budget
  • The client is put at risk of ending up with a beautiful, feature-rich product that doesn't align with its business goals

This is where a strategic brief comes into play.

Creating your roadmap

A strategic brief is a clear and concise document that outlines crucial information gathered during discovery and lays the foundation for the rest of the project. The document is started after the kick-off meeting, refined once discovery is complete, and approved by the client before any other work is done.

Not all project teams use a strategic brief, but it is useful for cutting down on the time it takes to complete a project in the long run. It sets up the bigger picture of everything that needs done and ensures there is structure in place to make it all happen.

You can also look back on a strategic brief when work is in progress to make sure everything is on track, and changes can be made before problems arise to get back on track.

Capturing the components

Project Vision

This is a single sentence that summarizes the ultimate purpose of the project at a high level. At any point throughout the project, all team members should be able to spit this out if asked what the project is about.

Strategic Objectives

This section includes three to five key objectives that support the project vision. The objectives can center around the look and feel of the project, the user experience, or even the functionality. Regardless, they should be brief, clear, and specific to the client’s highest priorities.

Target Audiences

This is a bulleted list of audiences being targeted for the end product, sorted by priority. The list can be all-encompassing, but it’s important to have the primary audience/user group on record front-and-center.

Keywords

Now we’re not talking about SEO keywords here, but rather a series of adjectives that describes how the client wants to be perceived. Knowing what an organization is not is just as important to help us shape the right impression for the target audiences.

These keywords can be divided into three lists:

  1. Look & Feel
  2. Voice & Tone
  3. What We’re Not

Reference Points

This section includes two lists of links:

  1. Competitors
  2. Aspirational References

Whether you’re making a website, mobile app, kiosk, robot, marketing plan, or some other amazing product, it’s important to be aware of what the competitors are doing and what inspires the client.

Metrics for Success

This section outlines the success criteria for the project. What are the key outcomes that the client is hoping to achieve by undergoing this project? This section should also include two lists:

  1. Measurable (quantitative)
  2. Anecdotal (qualitative)

Benefits of a strategic brief

  1. Sets the foundation for the entire project
    Every step of the way, the project team should be able to measure its work against the strategic brief to ensure sound decisions are being made.

  2. Clients provide constructive feedback
    Rather than being subjective, feedback should always be based on whether the work aligns with the project vision, the strategic objectives are being met, the target audiences are being served, the identified keywords are being reflected, and the metrics for success are trending in the right direction.

  3. Expectations are aligned
    The strategic brief is crucial for situations when a new stakeholder, decision-maker, or team member enters the project part-way through. Reviewing the document should bring new members up to speed efficiently and effectively.

If you’re working in the creative or digital space, your projects should absolutely be rooted in a strategic brief. Learn more about Mindgrub’s strategic offerings or get in touch to request additional information.