8 Free Risk Management Templates for Excel

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

If there’s one thing you can be certain of when managing a project, it’s change. If only you knew ahead of time what those issues would be, you could better address them. Although it’s impossible to predict the future, with these free risk management templates, you can better prepare for the unexpected and be more apt to keep your project on track.

There are many project management templates that are designed to help you identify, respond to and track those risks. This helps you avoid an issue that becomes a problem that negatively impacts the project’s time, cost and scope. Download these free risk management templates and gain more control over your project.

1. Risk Register Template

Planning for risk is how you manage risk. While it’s impossible to know what’ll happen, an experienced project manager will have the resources to predict what might happen. In order to define the potential of the risk from showing up in your project and what the impact could be, you’ll want to use our free risk register template for Excel.

ProjectManager's free risk tracking templatgeProjectManager's free risk tracking templatge

The free risk register gives you space to describe the risk, its impact and what your response will be if it appears in the project. There’s also a column to note if the risk is high, medium or low. Plus, you can assign a team member to that risk so they know to keep an eye out for it. If that risk becomes an issue, then the team member will be responsible for tracking it until the issue has been resolved.

2. Project Dashboard Template

Preparing for risk is essential to risk management, but that’s just the start. Once the project begins, you have to be diligent in monitoring the work to catch issues when they arise. The faster you capture issues, the less impact they’ll have and the quicker you’ll be able to resolve them. Using our free project dashboard template for Excel creates graphs that track your tasks, workload, costs and more.

However, templates can only do so much. They are, after all, static documents that must be manually updated. ProjectManager is online project management software that has real-time dashboards that automatically gather real-time data and display them in colorful graphs and charts that give you a high-level view of your tasks, workload, costs and more. Unlike the template, there’s no setup required. It’s immediately ready to deliver live data to help you make more insightful decisions. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's dashboard viewProjectManager's dashboard view
ProjectManager has real-time dashboards that help you identify risk faster. Learn more

3. Risk Matrix Template

There’s more than one way to manage risk, but regardless of how you choose to do so, you’ll always want to identify, prioritize and assign an owner to be on the lookout for it. Risk isn’t always negative, of course, but if you’re not prepared for risk then you can’t mitigate or take advantage of it. Our free risk matrix template for Excel provides a visual tool to manage risk easily.

ProjectManager's free risk matrix templateProjectManager's free risk matrix template

A risk matrix is a type of chart that’s used by project managers to map risks. It helps categorize the risk in terms of its likelihood of occurring and how it’ll impact the project. It does this on a colorful grid, which provides you with a visual tool that helps communicate risk to the project team.

4. Issue Tracking Template

Risk is potential, but project issues are real. They could be the manifestation of a risk that you’ve identified and have been monitoring or they could be unique. Whatever they are, you need to address them and our free issue-tracking template for Excel is just the tool you need to make sure issues don’t sidetrack your project.

ProjectManager's free issue tracking templateProjectManager's free issue tracking template

The issue tracking collects all the data you need to keep an eye on the issue as it moves through its life cycle. You have a column to describe it and its potential impact. Then you can give each issue a priority to know which to deal with first as well as the date it was first identified and who’s responsible for resolving the issue. There’s space to note the department responsible and whether the status is open or closed.

5. Cost-Benefit Analysis Template

Not all risks are created equal. Project managers can get sidetracked trying to resolve a risk that’s trivial when put in the context of the larger project. But how can you tell whether the risk in the project is worth the effort? Simply download our free cost-benefit analysis template for Excel to help you decide if the effort is worth the cost.

ProjectManager's free cost benefit analysis templateProjectManager's free cost benefit analysis template

The free template helps you collect the quantitative costs (indirect, intangible and opportunity) and compare them to the quantitative benefits (direct, indirect, intangible and competitive). With this data, you can make a cost-benefit analysis to see if the investment is worth the return.

6. Project Status Report Template

We’ve talked about project dashboards as a means to monitor for risk. Reports are another tool that provides a more detailed look at the project’s progress and performance. Use our free project status report template for Excel to view a slice of time in the project to chart its health and progress.

ProjectManager's free status report templateProjectManager's free status report template

Some of the data a status report captures include a summary of the project, such as key accomplishments, work that has been done, what work is still to come, milestones, deliverables and action items. There’s also information on the budget, schedule, quality and scope of the project. Plus, you can see risks, issues and roadblocks.

7. IT Risk Assessment Template

IT projects have their own unique risks and, therefore, need their own unique risk assessment. There are risks to software and hardware from malware, viruses, scams and more. There are also human errors, security breaches and natural disasters that can take you offline, too. Our free IT risk assessment template for Excel is a great tool to avoid potential loss from downtime.

ProjectManager's free IT risk tracking templateProjectManager's free IT risk tracking template

Everything you need to manage IT risk is included in the free template. You can list the risk by number to track it, note the area where the risk is likely to happen and define the risk. Then there’s a place to set up processes to control the risk, assess it and determine what activities will be required to reduce the risk. You can even monitor the risk if it shows up to make sure it’s properly resolved.

8. Change Log Template

Change is a risk; you don’t know when it’s coming, but you have to be able to deal with it. Whether it’s a request from stakeholders or an issue with equipment or weather, change can impact your project. If you planned correctly, then you’re ready for changes even if you’re not sure what they’ll be. When they come, though, you need our free change lot template for Excel to manage them.

ProjectManager's free change log templateProjectManager's free change log template

The free template lets you date when the change first came, who owns it and who’s responsible for taking care of the change. There’s a place to note its priority to know what should be done and when. You can also note its status. This way, as changes come into your project (and they always do), you have a way to track them and make sure nothing crucial is overlooked.

More Project Management Templates

Everyone likes free templates. ProjectManager has dozens of free project management templates for Excel and Word that are ready to be downloaded on our site. You can find more than free templates that deal with risk. There are ones that cover every phase of your project and below is only a small sampling.

Gantt Chart Template

The Gantt chart is one of the most popular scheduling tools in project management. Use our free Gantt chart template for Excel to list all your tasks and see them on a visual timeline. It’s a great way to organize your costs and resources.

Project Plan Template

Project plans allow project managers to scope their work and break it down into manageable parts. It’s an essential document in project management. Using our free project plan template for Word will help you organize your tasks, phases, budget and much more.

Project Budget Template

All projects require money to deliver success, and budgets capture those financial details. The more accurate the budget estimates, the more likely you’ll be able to complete the project. Using our free project budget template for Excel will help you accurately forecast costs.

ProjectManager Is a Risk Management Software

There’s no doubt that free project management templates are great. But they’re also status documents that must be manually updated. That’s a lot of time and effort to extend on a limited tool. ProjectManager is online project management software that delivers real-time data to help you better manage project risk.

Track Risk in Real Time

None of the free templates can track risk in real time. Someone on your team has to manually update those templates and there’s always a danger that copies are floating around so no one is aware of their actual status. Our risk management features make it easy to stay informed. You can create a risk just as you would a task and assign an owner, add dates, priorities, tags, attachments and more. Always know the status of your risk in real time.

ProjectManager's risk management task cardProjectManager's risk management task card
Manage Risk on Robust Gantt Charts

Having a risk management plan is essential and templates can help but they might not be flexible enough. In some cases, you need something more dynamic. Our online Gantt charts help you schedule and assign as well as monitor the project on a timeline. You can also easily share the Gantt chart with the project team and stakeholders.

ProjectManager's Gantt chartProjectManager's Gantt chart

Of course, teams and stakeholders aren’t going to need the details of a Gantt chart. That’s why we have multiple project views. Teams can manage and prioritize risk on kanban boards, which visualize the workflow. Stakeholders can be updated by viewing the calendar view or using customized reports to share just the data in which they’re interested.

Related Content

If you’re still hungry to learn more about risk and how to manage it, you’re in luck. ProjectManager isn’t only great software but our site is the premier online destination for all things project management. There are more than templates. We publish weekly blogs and have guides, videos and much more. Here’s some more risk-related reading.

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you plan, manage and track risk in real time. We also empower teams on a collaborative platform with task and resource management features to keep everyone working together more productively. Get onboard with teams from companies as varied as Avis, Nestle and Siemens who use our software to deliver success. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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How to Create Action Items & Action Item Lists: Tracker Included

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

More likely than not, you’ve created an action item without realizing it. If you’ve ever written a to-do list, you’ve made yourself a set of action items—errands to run, household chores to complete, people to contact, etc.

In project management, managing action items is a much more complicated process, and it calls for a sophisticated system of creating, assigning and tracking action items.

What Are Action Items?

Action items are small tasks that should be executed to achieve a larger, more complex objective, such as an action plan or simply a larger task. Creating a list of action items is the best way to assign these jobs and track progress.

Action items take many forms in project management, from activities that must be completed to events that must take place. Their defining characteristic, though, is that each item completed leads to the conclusion of a greater task.

While they may appear simple, creating a list of action items is more important than you might expect. Poorly created action items lists can slow down an entire project or even lead to total failure. For this reason, it’s essential to understand the best ways to create action items and use them to propel your project forward.

Project management software is the best way to make a list of action items and actually execute your work as a team. With ProjectManager, you can collaborate on tasks in five different views, including Gantt charts, task lists and kanban boards to track progress with dashboards and even track your time. Get started today for free.

Action items list in projectmanagerAction items list in projectmanager
ProjectManager lets you create action items and track them in real time with task cards. Learn more

The 3 Ws of Action Items

Before we dive into the specifics of writing action items, let’s start with three key questions known as the 3 Ws of action items. These questions will help you get started with the main attributes of an action item.

  • Who? It’s important to define who will be the task owner as they’re responsible for the execution of the action item.
  • What? Any action item needs a description that clearly defines what will be done.
  • When? All action items should be time-bound in order to be effective for task management.

Now that we’ve established these bare minimum requirements for action items from a task management perspective, let’s learn how to write detailed action items for project planning.

How to Write Action Items

Here are some elements project managers should keep in mind when writing action items. The more detailed your action items, the more they’ll help facilitate workload management and the execution of your project plan.

1. Define a Title and Tracking Number for your Action Items

This is the name of the action item – its simplest descriptor. Keep the title short, as you will write a description and expand on the details there. It is advisable to assign a tracking number to each item. This will simplify how you track and report on them, especially when dealing with many action items at once.

2. Establish a Priority Level for Each Action Item

When dealing with multiple items on your action plan, assign each a priority in order to know what to focus on first. Not all of them necessarily must be completed in the order they were assigned, and some will naturally be more pressing than others.

3. Set Due Dates for Action Items

There are three dates to keep in mind when creating action items: creation date, estimated completion date and eventual completion date. Note that not all will be completed and some may instead be “resolved.” These are items that have become unnecessary along the way and don’t need to be completed.

4. Assign a Task Owner for your Action Items

Include who created the action item as well as who they assigned it to. This makes it easier for anyone involved to know where to direct questions. Essentially, this is a way to speed up project communication.

5. Write a Short Description for Each Action Item

The description should expand on the title. Keep in mind that this should still be a simple description — a summation, not a step-by-step guide. Generally, action item descriptions are only a sentence or two.

6. Add a Section for Specific Details

Here you may include any other pertinent details the assignee needs to execute the task. Depending on the action item, this may not be necessary.

Action Item Examples

Imagine a project meeting in which a task list is being discussed, creating a project management office (PMO). This task must be completed before the project can move forward. In order to make this complex task more manageable, the project manager will break it into smaller action items.

Project task: Set up a project management office (PMO)

Action items:

  • Choose a location for the PMO
  • Choose software for the PMO
  • Assemble a team for the PMO

These tasks are easier for team members to wrap their heads around and execute and easier for project managers to track. Here’s another example that applies to project managers. Creating a project schedule is a complex task that can be broken into multiple action items to facilitate its execution.

Project Task: Create a project schedule

Action items:

  • Identify your available resources such as people, materials and equipment
  • Create a work breakdown structure to define your project tasks
  • Use project management software or other tools to create your schedule

These are just two simple action items examples to illustrate how they can be valuable in project management, but in reality, action items can be used for many purposes such as operations management or manufacturing.

Benefits of Using Action Items

Here are some of the main benefits of using action items for project management.

  • Turn project meetings into action: Creating action items based on the takeaways from your project meetings can be very beneficial for your organization. For example, you can use your meeting minutes to create action items to take action right away.
  • Help with workload management: Action items are easy to track using project management tools, which allows project managers to know what their team members are working on.
  • Increase employee accountability: As stated above, action items have an owner, priority level and deadlines, which creates a sense of accountability in employees.
  • Facilitate project tracking: Action items are specific, small tasks that help dig into task management details. This means project managers can track their projects very accurately and share project progress with stakeholders.

What Is Action Item Tracking?

After writing action items, execution and tracking begin. As these are worked on, you should track and record their progress in order to inform decisions and strategies. When done correctly, tracking should reveal where to tweak task management strategies in the future.

Action item tracking is the process of monitoring an action item from start to finish and recording the information. This information can be easily referred back to and even inform future decisions.

Tracking is especially important after a project is completed. Without it, useful information about how an action item was handled is essentially wasted. Ideally, this information will be saved and used at a later date.

The two most commonly used methods for action items tracking are action items lists and project management tools like Gantt charts, task lists and kanban boards.

The Purpose of an Action Item List

A rolling action item list is a good way to track everyone’s responsibilities during the project. This makes it easier to find answers to any questions you might have in the future. An action item list shows exactly what went right and what went wrong during a project, as well as how much effort and resources certain tasks required.

Things to Consider When Creating an Action Items List

There are five details you should always include to make sure the item is understood and can be tracked:

  • The name of the task
  • The important dates – creation, planned completion, actual completion
  • The description of the action item
  • The risks or issues to look out for
  • Who will own the action item

How to Make an Action Item List

As you begin writing, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.

1. Begin With a Verb

When action items are written as nouns, odds are, they’re too broad. This can lead to confusion. For example, titling an action item “proofread investor emails” vs. “investor emails” gives a clearer idea of exactly what needs to be done.

2. Be Concise

Action items should make things simpler, not more complicated. If they are too “wordy” or contain unnecessary detail, they can confuse the assignee and slow things down. Less is more.

3. Write So Anyone Can Understand

Action items will always make sense to whoever created them, but consider if they’ll make as much sense to a first-time reader. The assignee should know exactly what to do.

4. Keep Resources in Mind

As you create an action item, consider the required resources like budget, labor and time. These resources may impact who you assign it to and what other items you assign them.

5. Anticipate Resulting Action Items

Successfully completing one job can unlock the door to another. When you anticipate these additional jobs ahead of time, you’ll be a step ahead.

Action Items Template

Action items are a constant part of task management. They’re something team leads create and use throughout the life of any project. For this reason, your lists should be formatted in the same way and include the same information. This consistency cuts down on confusion and improves results.

As the assignee, you should know exactly what is expected of you no matter what you have been assigned or who assigned it. An action item template ensures all the information you need is there in a format you can understand.

Our action item template ensures that you include all the necessary details and format the lists the same way every time. In doing so, you won’t have to waste valuable time reacquainting yourself with a new format. You have the information you need, and you know where to find it.

For even better results, combine this template with powerful project management software with project tracking and reporting tools.

Tracking Action Items with ProjectManager

ProjectManager is an award-winning tool that allows you to organize, execute, track and report on your action item lists with a greater degree of productivity.

List Action Items on Different Project Views

A simple spreadsheet can get the job done, but its static nature can be limited. With our software, you map your action items on online Gantt charts, task list or kanban board. Every project view easily allows you to assign action items and track the progress from concept to completion.

Kanban board in ProjectManager for tracking action itemsKanban board in ProjectManager for tracking action items

Track Action Item Status on Dashboards

To track the progress and performance of the assignee, you can use the real-time dashboard, which feeds real-time data from each of your team members and converts it into graphs and charts that display metrics such as time, variance and more.

Dashboard view in ProjectManager to track action itemsDashboard view in ProjectManager to track action items

Collaborate With Your Team with Cloud-Based Software

With our collaborative platform, team members can collaborate and tackle work in a more effective manner. Users can attach files and images, comment and tag people to ensure that everyone is on the same page.ProjectManager's team collaboration features help teams keep track of action items

ProjectManager's team collaboration features help teams keep track of action items

ProjectManager is an award-winning project management solution that takes your project every step of the way. Online planning tools and web-based task management features let you collaborate on the go and make adjustments throughout the project. Then, create comprehensive reports from the data with only a few clicks. See for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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What Is Demand Planning? Tips, Strategies and Tools

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

Businesses need to balance their product supply and customer demand on a permanent basis. But how do you meet demand and not overstock your inventory? That’s where a process called demand planning comes in. It’s a way to boost profits and minimize overhead costs.

What Is Demand Planning?

Demand planning is a cross-functional process that businesses use to meet customer demand while avoiding supply chain or inventory management disruptions. Demand planning is an ongoing effort that’s accomplished through the integration of product portfolio management, enterprise resource planning, marketing and sales.

You must use both internal and external business data to determine the demand forecast for your product as demand planning can be impacted by external forces such as labor force changes, economic shifts, natural disasters, global crises and more. The more of these factors that you consider, the more accurate your demand forecasting will be. Once that’s done, you can adjust your production planning.

Project management software gives you the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in supply and demand. ProjectManager is online software that delivers real-time data to help you make more insightful demand-planning decisions. Our interactive Gantt chart project view allows you to create schedules, use resource management tools, filter data and foster cross-functional collaboration across your organization. Try ProjectManager free today.

A screenshot of the Gantt chart in ProjectManager, used for demand planningA screenshot of the Gantt chart in ProjectManager, used for demand planning
Create demand plans and execute them with ease with ProjectManager. Learn more!

Why Is Demand Planning Important?

While striking a balance between supply and demand isn’t easy, the rewards are substantial. Demand planning can increase the profitability of your company, boost customer satisfaction and build efficiency in your production planning, inventory management and supply chain operations. All of this can be achieved by first making an accurate demand forecast and building a demand plan based on it.

What Is a Demand Plan?

A demand plan can be simply defined as an action plan that coordinates the efforts of multiple departments in an organization so that capacity planning, production scheduling and supply chain planning align with the demand forecasts. Demand plans help teams meet demand while increasing their profitability.

What Is the Difference Between Demand Planning and Forecasting?

Some confuse the terms demand forecasting and demand planning but they’re two different things. Demand forecasting is the first step of the demand planning process. It consists of the analysis of business data to estimate customer demand and create a demand forecast. To create an effective demand forecast, demand planners and project managers use information from areas such as marketing, sales, procurement, product management and supply chain planning.

Key Elements of Demand Planning

Demand planning is a complex procedure, but not impossible. Here are some of the elements that work together to help you balance demand with supply:

  • Data collection & data modeling: Gather data from both internal and external sources, which puts demand in context.
  • Statistical forecasting: You can create a demand forecast by using statistical analysis methods to make demand forecasts based on your sales, inventory management and capacity planning data.
  • Product portfolio management: Product portfolio management consists of managing multiple product lines simultaneously to achieve cost efficiencies and other strategic benefits.
  • Trade promotion management (TPM): TPM refers to the multiple efforts that organizations take to cause an increase in customer demand.
  • Business analytics: Feed your collected data into business intelligence tools such as predictive analytics to make demand forecasts.
  • Collaboration: Work with your suppliers, manufacturers, salesforce and other stakeholders in your supply chain to collect information that can impact demand.

These considerations let you make a demand forecast, which is an informed prediction of the demand you expect. That leads even further to the next step, which is creating a demand plan.

Demand Planning Methods

There are several demand planning methods that can be employed to prepare your business to meet customer demand. Here are different approaches you can try.

Delphi Method

The Delphi method relies on a panel of cross-functional subject matter experts that make a demand forecast by reaching an agreement between their perspectives about future market trends and potential customer demand.


Benchmarking consists of comparing your business with top competitors in your industry. This helps managers and demand planners compare performance metrics and business processes with other companies to create realistic demand forecasts.

Linear Regression

Linear regression is a statistical method that weighs in different variables to estimate future demand. With this method, managers can make demand forecasts for different scenarios that are based on historical sales data, as well as economic and market conditions.

Demand Sensing

Demand sensing uses artificial intelligence and real-time data to create demand forecasts based on current demand management information, instead of using historical data.

Demand Planning Process

The demand plan is an outline of the amount, type and location of inventory you need to meet your customer’s demand. All demand plans roughly follow these seven steps:

  1. Assemble your team: Put together a coordinated and effective cross-functional demand management team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  2. Define internal data: Find agreement on which sales data, inventory turnover, lead times, etc., are relevant for forecasting future demand.
  3. Add external data: Gather qualitative and quantitative information from customers, suppliers, consultants and any other external sources.
  4. Choose a demand planning method: Choose a demand planning method based on your business’ needs. You can use multiple approaches to refine your demand planning process.
  5. Use demand planning tools: Demand planning is a complex process. Use different tools to help you streamline your demand planning activities such as business intelligence software, ERP software and project management software.
  6. Make a demand forecast: Collaborate to decide what type of demand forecasting model fits your company and develop it.
  7. Review and refine: Take your demand forecast to stakeholders and have them review and analyze the work, adding any new data to see if the predictions still hold. Then, refine your data as needed.
  8. Check your inventory: Determine the inventory levels you need to meet your demand forecast, including a bit extra as a buffer. Identify vendors who will help you meet this demand and ensure they can deliver on your timeline.
  9. Track results: Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of your demand plan and make adjustments as needed.

Demand Planning Best Practices

There are a few things you can do to make sure your demand plan is the best it can be. The first is to define the balance between your statistical modeling and collaborative forecasting. This creates accountability and leads to more continuous improvement in your company.

When you’re not forecasting, demand sensing and shaping can be helpful. You shape demand to change how demand occurs, and demand sensing involves catching data further downstream to reduce information latency. Use these to increase your accuracy when determining the most profitable mix of what you’re selling balanced by demand.

Finally, an important practice is measuring your forecast at the product, location and customer level. This facilitates continuous improvement and boosts accountability. The best way to measure improvement over time is while reviewing sales and operation planning.

How ProjectManager Simplifies Demand Planning

To make better decisions as you measure and act with demand planning, you need project management software. ProjectManager is online software that gives you accurate insights, connects teams and lets you manage several projects at once.

Let Your Teams Work Their Way

For demand planning to work, you need to work with cross-functional teams across your company. Different departments prefer different tools, which is why ProjectManager has multiple project views. Managers tend to prefer our robust Gantt charts, but marketing and sales might want to use a task list or kanban board. Whatever view they use, the data is instantly updated and shared across the whole platform, keeping everyone on the same page.

kanban board for demand planningkanban board for demand planning

Manage Multiple Projects with Ease

Measuring metrics can be difficult, and even more so if you’re trying to track several demand plans. ProjectManager has product portfolio management tools that let you scale with your production. Use our roadmap to get a full view of all the projects you’re managing. From this vantage point, you can see how resources can be shared across all your work, which helps improve efficiency.

Portfolio management for demand planningPortfolio management for demand planning

Track Improvements on Dashboards

Dashboards are a great way to get an instant status report. ProjectManager’s dashboard is fully functional from the get-go and collects real-time data. There’s also a portfolio dashboard that captures metrics across all your demand plans with live data. Use them to make better decisions and continuously add improvements to your demand planning.

Portfolio dashboard in ProjectManagerPortfolio dashboard in ProjectManager

ProjectManager is award-winning software that organizes your work and delivers efficiencies. With features to help you plan, monitor and report on your work, collecting key metrics, ProjectManager is the only software you’ll need to balance demand to supply and keep your production moving forward. Try ProjectManager today for free.

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Design Brief: A Quick Guide

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

If you’re working on a design project, wait. Before you start you need to have a design brief. It’s similar to a project brief, only focused on design. After all, you wouldn’t start driving if you didn’t first know your destination.

Projects can’t be idle and exploratory endeavors. Design projects are no different, which is why a design brief is so important. It communicates the design project and helps keep everyone working together regardless of their department.

What Is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a document that identifies the goals, scope and strategy of your design project. It’s similar to a roadmap to help with design decision-making and it defines the workflow of the design project, from start to finish.

It’s a critical first step for any design project in that it not only outlines the project but gets buy-in from the project team and key stakeholders. It communicates the project deliverables, budget and schedule to everyone involved, making sure they’re on the same page.

The design brief is also similar to the statement of work in a traditional project but the difference is that the client is already working with the design team. The deal is done, now only the details have to be sorted. Whatever you compare it to, the design brief stands alone as one of the first and most important documents in your design project.

The design brief is essential as it acts as the framework for your design plan. ProjectManager is project management software that helps you take a design brief and turn it into tasks, assignments and more. Use our interactive Gantt charts to organize your work, link dependencies that could delay your progress and share the plan with your team. You can even set a baseline to capture the schedule and monitor your planned progress against your actual progress in real time to stay on track. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chartProjectManager's Gantt chart
ProjectManager turns design briefs into shareable plans that can be tracked in real time. Learn more

Design Brief vs. Creative Brief

While often referred to as the same thing, a design brief and a creative brief are different animals. Knowing the difference is important when venturing into a design project.

The creative brief is a translation of the client’s objectives and goals including when and where it’s being executed, how it’ll flow through the supply chain and its practicalities.

Usually, the design brief is more concerned with the preproduction and business side of the project. The design brief lays out how things will be done while the creative brief is more about establishing the project objectives.

The design brief and the creative brief are different but work together. The research of the design brief informs the deeper creative brief, which targets the audience and makes sure the design is meeting their needs.

How to Write a Design Brief

Now that we know what a design brief is and how it differs from a creative brief, it’s time to learn how to write a design brief. There isn’t one way to create a design brief, but there are common elements to them all.

Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure the client’s objectives and goals are clear. It also helps to place a design brief in context to help inform the choices you make throughout the project. Once you have that in place, be sure to include the following.

Project Overview

The first step is to know your client and the company that has hired you for the design project. List all the details until you understand the market, industry and guidelines for the company’s brand. This will help you gain the trust of your stakeholders.

Some things to know include the size of the company you’re working with, contact info, naturally, take a look at their older projects and what their current design needs are. This will help as you work across departments to keep the objectives and goals at the forefront of every team’s mind.

Project Scope

The scope is an outline of everything that’s necessary to execute the project. The project scope is a very detailed part of your design brief, summarizing what you’ll do without leaving anything out. This is important not only for the client but so everyone on the design team understands their roles and responsibilities.

Once you have the project scope, be sure to get buy-in from the client and the project team. Everyone involved in the project needs to agree on the details outlined in this section or else there will be problems during the execution of the project. That is not good for anyone involved and will only cause delays and add costs.

Goals & Objectives

The goals and objectives must be clearly defined. If you’re unsure of these, the project is doomed to fail. Look at the design problems inherent in the project and explore ways to resolve them. List these steps so the team has a plan if they’re faced with a design problem.

You’ll also need to understand the purpose of the project as it will determine the goals and objectives. They go hand-in-glove. Once you have the goals identified, list the steps your team has to take in order to accomplish them. Be clear and specific. This isn’t an area in which you want to be vague as it will lead to misunderstandings resulting in delays and extra costs.

Project Deliverables

Deliverables are the outputs that are submitted within the scope of your project. Just as you outlined the scope, you’ll also want to detail the deliverables throughout the course of the project. Deliverables can be either tangible or intangible that the client will receive, including the end product.

Something to keep in mind as you list the project deliverables is what the end result looks like and the key milestones in the project. This can include the size, resolution and format that they will be. Also, make sure the deliverables align with the purpose of the project as defined earlier. If they’re not, there will be a problem with your client when they’re delivered. At that point, it’s too late and the schedule and budget will suffer.

Target Market or Audience

Just as important as the purpose, goals and objectives of a design project is who it’s for. That can be the market to which you’re introducing it or the audience you want to target as potential customers. Interview the client and create a design idea board to bounce things off of them and make sure you’re targeting the right market or audience. It will help you by always knowing who you’re working towards impressing.

Often the client has already done the heavy lifting in this arena. They have a target market or audience and can provide you with these details. That’s helpful, but you still want to make sure that you’re clear on who the market or audience is, such as the demographic data, psychological characteristics, etc. The better you know your audience, the more successful the project will be.

Project Budget

Of course, projects of all kinds can’t occur if they’re not funded. Being able to accurately forecast the cost of executing your design project is a critical step toward actualizing it. If your project estimates are off, you’re going to be spending more money and clients don’t like that.

Remember, your client isn’t likely a designer. They don’t know the cost related to creating what they want. There’s research, planning, executing and reviving involved. It’s your job not only to know how much the project will cost but convince the client that the price is reasonable. A word of advice: always add enough cushion to your budget to cover unexpected costs as these are commonplace.

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Project Timeline

The other fundamental aspect of any project is the timeline or how long it’ll take to complete the job. This is usually determined by a hard deadline from the client if they need to deliver to market during a specific time, season, etc. Having an accurate estimate of your schedule is as important as forecasting a realistic budget. You have to have ample time to do everything.

Again, you’ll probably have to educate your client on the timeline and why it’s as long as it is. They want quality and that doesn’t happen overnight, as any designer knows but few clients might understand. To have an accurate schedule, you need to know all the tasks and then make sure the resources are available. There are tools that can help, such as a work breakdown structure (WBS).

ProjectManager and Design Briefs

The design brief gets you ready for the project, but once you start executing your plan, you need project management software to connect and empower your teams. ProjectManager is online project management software that delivers real-time data that leads to better decision-making.

Use the Tools You Want

Design projects go through many departments and everyone has to work together. But not everyone works on the same tools. Managers love Gantt charts, agile designers gravitate to the visual workflow of kanban boards and copywriters might want to knock off their work on task boards. That’s why we offer multiple project views so everyone can work how they want to. Best of all, the real-time data is shared across the tool so everyone is always working on the most current information.

A screenshot of the Kanban board project viewA screenshot of the Kanban board project view
Track Progress and Performance in Real Time

Not only do you need to foster collaboration over cross-functional teams, but you also need to track their work in order to stay on schedule and keep to your budget. Get a high-level view with our real-time project dashboard. There’s no configuration needed and unlike other tools, it’s ready to use when you are. Simply toggle over to the live dashboard and see time spent on tasks, workload, costs and more in easy-to-read charts and graphs. For more details, there are customizable reports that can also be shared to keep your client updated.

ProjectManager's dashboardProjectManager's dashboard

Whether you work with a team in the same office, different departments or even across the globe, our real-time data makes it easy to stay connected and work better together. Teams can comment, share files and tag anyone on the project team if they need their input. You can even give clients access, limiting what they can see and do. Transparency leads to less confusion and greater productivity. Make your next design project a success with our software.

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you plan, manage and track design projects. Our collaborative platform and multiple project views give users the flexibility they need to work more effectively. Add risk, resource and task management features and you have a one-stop-shop for all your project needs. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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