How to write a brief for a software development project

A brief should detail the bigger picture ideas and plans for your software project. It can also describe some finer aspects, such as specific functions required for a website or application, but it ultimately should serve as a starting point for a project.

Director of Inoutput Chris Rickard said the content of a brief can significantly impact the length of the scoping phase, and can quite often reduce it by half.

“We’ll help flesh out features, make recommendations and provide technical expertise but it's great when a client has thought long and hard about their project, can describe the features and has put some effort into trying to sketch out how it could look,” he said.

A major benefit of providing a brief is that the concept has been fully thought through, meaning the software developers can achieve a better outcome for the client, Rickard said.

“A brief will help us understand the client’s requirements and generally provide a step of instructions or features needed to complete the project.”

The process of putting together a brief doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a guideline of the elements you should include in a project brief:

1. Overview

An overview of the project’s requirements or the problem that needs to be solved is a great starting point for a brief. An overview should explain what the project is expected to achieve or what business problem needs to be solved. It should also explain why the project is being undertaken. Think of the overview as the bird’s-eye view of the project.

2. Specifics

  • If you have any initial ideas or suggestions for main features of your project, list them in detail and in order of priority. The software developers will need to know which elements of the project you absolutely must have, aspects that would be nice to have and features that are less urgent and could be created in the future.
  • Do you have any sketches, diagrams or wireframes to help illustrate your vision for your project? If so, be sure to provide them. This includes any existing graphic designs, logos or images that may have already been created.
  • Do you need to integrate any existing systems with the new project? If so, it’s important to brief your software developer on internal systems they may not be aware of and how they can work to amalgamate them through APIs or database access, for instance.

3. Delivery

What timeframe are you working with to get the project started and delivered? Do you have any restrictions? Supply dates or an estimated project timeline, if possible.

It’s also helpful to provide an indication of your budget for the project so the software developer can work within practical constraints.

Need a hand putting your brief together? Inoutput can help. Contact us via their online contact form in the sidebar or phone 03 9913 8468.