Putting together a formal Project Definition Statement may or may not be something your organization requires. However, you may still find it beneficial to your project, your team, and your customer to put together a formal Project Definition Statement, even if it's not really required.

Much like a Project Overview Statement, the Project Definition Statement captures key project information but goes into more detail in some areas. The project manager and the project team can use the detailed information provided in the Project Definition Statement for the following:

  • As a basis for planning
  • To capture an idea
  • To obtain an agreement from the customer to move forward
  • To clarify the project for management
  • As a reference that keeps the team focused in the right direction
  • As an orientation for new team members
  • As a method for discovery by the team

In most cases the Project Definition Statement expands on two specific sections that a typical Project Overview Statement does not:

Project objectives

In a typical Project Overview Statement, the project objectives are written so that they can be understood by anyone who might have reason to read them. In the Project Definition Statement, the situation is somewhat different. The Project Definition Statement is not circulated outside the project team; therefore, the language can be technical and the development more detailed. Project objectives take on more of the look of functional requirements or functional specification document. The purpose is to provide a description that the project team can relate to.

Assumptions, risks, and obstacles

The Project Overview Statement contains statements of assumptions, risks, and obstacles that will be of interest to senior management. For the Project Definition Statement, the list will be of interest to the project team. For that reason, it will be much longer and more detailed. This list is usually built during the joint project planning session, whereas the Project Overview Statement list is built as part of the scoping activity of the project.

Project management obstacles

A Project Definition Statement is simply a variant of the Project Overview Statement designed specifically for the team. By implementing the Project Definition Statement, the project manager and team can further clarify the communications problems that often arise in the project as team members come and go and things change that affect the overall project.


Whether or not you feel the need to go into this much detail during the planning process of the project may be dependent on the size of the project and the size of your team.  The Project Definition Statement is, after all, more a document for your team than anyone else. It can be very helpful in averting hurdles later in the project by documenting some specific details up front.  And the detailed information it forces you to think about and capture is only helpful as you move forward with your detailed planning on the project.