Blog Posts Process Analysis

Process Description L010: Review / Confirm Terms of Reference (TOR), Scope, Objectives

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown


The project requires a clear definition of its terms of reference (ToR), scope and objectives.  This is a mandate to operate within the Customer organisation.  It allows work to be correctly focused, and the outcome to be measured against the original goals.


The project manager should review the project proposal and other relevant documentation to produce a preliminary statement of project ToR, scope and objectives.  He then needs to assemble a core management planning team whose first task will be to validate this document by conducting interviews and workshops with key personnel.  A formal Project Constitution should then be produced and agreed with the project sponsor.


This process is mandatory.


Prerequisites (Finish-Finish):

  • (none)

Dependent procedures (Finish-Finish):

  • Review / confirm business needs and anticipated benefits (L020)

Dependent procedures (Finish-Start):
  • Select Path(s) (L030)
  • Define and agree project management techniques (L040)


  • Project Proposal
  • Other relevant documentation  (see “DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF TASKS” below), eg any existing Feasibility Study, Benefit Model or Cost/Benefit Analysis etc.


  • Project Constitution


  • Project Management Methodology and Tools



A clear definition of the project’s ToR, scope and objectives is needed at outset to:

  • to reduce the risk of gradual “scope creep”;
  • establish the assumptions upon which the project will be planned and executed; and,
  • define a foundation for developing the remainder of the management plan.

The document produced at the conclusion of this process (the Project Constitution) defines the mission to be accomplished by the project.  The mission may be refined in subsequent steps, at the discretion of the sponsor and steering committee as more information becomes available. 
It is essential that the ToR, scope and objectives are defined, documented and agreed.  To that extent this process is mandatory.  The precise techniques to be used and contents of the documentation may vary according to circumstances.  The remainder of this process describes a recommended but optional approach.

Review existing documentation
The project manager should review existing documentation to gain an understanding of the project background and history.  Relevant documentation may include, but is not limited to:

  • project proposal;
  • documentation produced during Project Initiation Phase
  • project description and cost/benefit analysis;
  • request for proposal (RFP); request for information (RFI); request for quote (RFQ) or equivalent documents;
  • pre-proposal survey and interview notes;
  • business plans;
  • corporate information technology plan;
  • organisation charts; and,
  • existing functional and/or system documentation.

The strategic objectives of the project should be described in one of the documents.  If these objectives are not defined, the sponsor and project manager should identify specific users to research and document the project’s strategic objectives.

During the review process, the project manager should identify and evaluate:
  • implied commitments and concessions that have not been formalised or clearly documented;
  • constraints;
  • unclear and/or undocumented anticipated benefits of the project;
  • initial cost, resource or schedule estimates that appear to be unsubstantiated or potentially unrealistic; and,
  •  “overkill” – the possibility that the anticipated benefits could be achieved through simpler measures which may cost significantly less than current projections.

The project manager should prepare a preliminary document summarising the key information from the documentation reviewed.  The summary should include:
  • the project’s objectives and scope;
  • initial cost/benefit analysis;
  • a list of topics requiring further information;
  • missing information or documentation;
  • constraints; and,
  • risks.    

Assemble a management planning team

The sponsor and project manager should identify a core management planning team, whose first deliverable will be the Project Constitution, but who will then assist with subsequent management planning tasks.  Team members should be knowledgeable about the subject matter and generally include:

  •  the project manager;
  • key functional personnel
  • key technical personnel
  • Specialists in the Application Modules

The core team is generally a small number of people, but the scope of the project will dictate the team size.  Additional resources may be called upon to provide input as needed.  For a large project, developing the management plan may take considerable time and commitment.  Resources assigned to the core team may need to be relieved of their daily responsibilities to ensure the commitment is met. 
The project manager should share background information and documentation with the team and should obtain their input on the preliminary document described in the preceding step.

Conduct interviews and workshops
The core team should review the preliminary document produced by the project manager and then determine the best method of verifying its content, and obtaining additional or missing information.  The objective of verification, and gathering additional or missing information is to refine or define in further detail:

  • the objectives and scope of the project, what the project includes and what is excluded;
  • assumptions to be used in the development of the management plan;
  • needs of the organisation as they relate to the project;
  • constraints such as time, cost or implementation schedule;
  • risks associated with the project and the degree of severity;
  • criticality of the project in relation to corporate objectives;
  • commitment from senior management to support the project actively;
  • management’s expectations and tolerance levels pertaining to costs and schedules;
  • a description of the major deliverables and measurable success criteria;
  • an assessment of the organisation’s readiness to undertake the project;
  • geographic location requirements or constraints for the project team; and,
  • potential staffing, logistical or communication constraints.

Individuals who are best suited to provide input should be identified, such as:
  • potential project sponsors;
  • company directors and key functional managers;
  • information technology management;
  • end users;
  • members of the committee or group who requested the project;
  • members of the committee or group who authorised the project.

Appropriate methods for gathering the information depend on the individuals involved.  The core team should be aware that opposing views may be presented and discussed.  Individual interviews may result in the core team having to reconcile differences through subsequent meetings.  For this reason, facilitated workshops are often the easiest and fastest method to gather necessary information.
A considerable amount of information can be gathered in the interview and workshop process. Not all of the information will relate to the project’s ToR, scope and objectives but the core team should document the information for use in subsequent steps.

Produce Project Constitution and obtain approval from sponsor
The core team should prepare a formal document – the Project Constitution – defining the project’s scope, terms of reference and objectives.  The project boundaries defined here become the litmus test for what is and what is not part of the project.  These boundaries are the foundation of the management plan document and become the basis for the subsequent steps. 

The boundaries may change as the project is defined in more detail – for example, they may shift as the requirements are further defined and broken down.  Once the detailed requirements have been approved, however, the boundaries should become firm.
The core team should discuss the document with the sponsor and obtain approval.  No further management planning should take place until approval from the sponsor has been obtained.

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