How to Develop a Project Summary


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You get on the elevator with someone who asks you about your upcoming project. Can you clearly describe your project in 60 seconds? Let's look at how to develop a project summary.

Perhaps you are on the way out of a meeting with senior leaders when a Vice President asks you about your project. She says, "I only have a minute, but could you give me a brief summary of the project?"

Your ability to describe your projects helps others understand your projects. You (and your project sponsor) will be in a better position to engage your stakeholders and get their support. Are you ready?

Why You Need a Project Summary

Why do you need a project summary? Here are three reasons:

  1. It helps you to clarify your project. I can't tell you how often I've asked a project sponsor or project manager about their project and heard disjointed comments. This is one of the primary reasons projects are not approved when pitched.
  2. It provides the core components for developing your project charter. When you create your project charter, you can start with the content of your project summary and add elements such as deliverables, assumptions, constraints, high-level risks, stakeholders, and team members. 
  3. It allows you to sell the project quickly. It's easy to lose the attention of others. Describe your project concisely and compellingly. Make it easy for individuals to connect the dots and see how your projects will help the company achieve its strategic objectives.

How to Develop a Project Summary

So, how do you create a brilliant project summary?

A project summary should include the following components:

  1. Project Name: The project name.
  2. Problems: The problems you are attempting to solve.
  3. Solutions: How the project will solve the problem.
  4. Goals: The goals of the project.

Project Summary Examples

Here's an insurance company example:

"It is taking us 21 days on average to close an auto physical damage claim, compared to 14 days of our competitors. The primary causes of our longer cycle time are an inadequate number of qualified claims adjusters and inefficient claims processes and systems. [Problems] The AutoMagic Project [Project Name] aims to decrease our average cycle time to 18 days within eight months and 12 days within 12 months. [Goals] How? Hiring and training additional auto claims adjusters, improving our claims processes, and modifying our systems. [Solutions]"

You may order the components as you like. Here's an example of the creation and launch of a Project Management Office:

"SocialPress (name of company) has many projects, but many do not align with the company's mission and strategies. Furthermore, less than 30% of the projects are completed on budget and schedule due to poor project management. [Problems] The PMO Launch Project [Project Name] will be undertaken to implement a Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO will facilitate a review of projects for alignment with the SocialPress strategies, provide project management tools and training, and work with senior leaders to discover ways to improve our project success rate. [Solutions] Our goal is to deliver 50% of our projects on budget and schedule in the next fiscal year. [Goals]"

How About You?

Now it's your turn. Write a summary for one of your projects. Practice sharing the summary; fine-tune the description as needed.

Formulating a clear and brilliant project summary does not have to be complicated. Your job as a project manager is to have your stakeholders' best interests at heart. Make sure they can understand your project quickly.

This simple process starts with four questions you MUST ask yourself before writing your project summary.

  1. What is the title of your project?
  2. What are the problems that your project will solve?
  3. How will your project solve the problems?
  4. What are the project goals?

The What, Why, & How of Project Charters

Are you tired of rework and adverse impacts to your projects due to a lack of clarity upfront in your projects? Discover the exact, proven system I use to engage stakeholders, improve collaboration, and initiate projects.

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