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Mis à jour le 02/03/2022

Select a Method to Describe the Project

Let’s get going with the project description phase, a crucial part of the risk management process. 

As you saw in the first chapter, describing the project is the first stage in risk management, and it helps lay the foundation for your risk analysis.

A project life cycle timeline phase 1 Knowledge of the project is highlighted
Knowledge of the project

Before we can perform a risk analysis, we need to understand what tools we have available to properly describe and organize what we know about the project. In this chapter we will explore a four key methods that you can use to efficiently prepare for your risk analysis.

Things to Consider Before You do a Risk Analysis 

You probably already have access to project description material often used to share vital information with your client, manager, or team.

The most important thing is to provide a complete but brief overview, outlining the project's unique aspects and information about the context.

Describe a Project Using The Question Word Method

One of the most common methods for describing a project is using question words. You can use them to define a problem you need to solve or a specific scenario. In addition, it helps ensure that you don’t forget certain aspects.

In project management, you use this method in table form, listing both the questions and your answers. Here is an example (columns 3 and 4 demonstrate how to fill out this table. You wouldn’t include them in an actual project). Here is a standard template for The Question Word Method:

An image of a sample question word method spread sheet You can look through the example before completing the table yourself
Questions word method sample

🛋We didn't do one for the SofiSofa project, but we can do it now. Let's explore what the Question Word Method would have looked like for the SofiSofa furniture project:


  • Producing a new website (e-commerce) to present a new range of sofas + customization.

  • Producing a mobile app (e-commerce) where customers can see the sofa superposed onto a background + customization.


  • Project sponsor: SofiSofa, furniture manufacturer since 1936.

  • Clients based elsewhere: Wolmar, logistics manager at the Stuttgart factory - access to information about orders.

  • Our in-house team: Stephanie (deputy CEO), Benoit (account manager), Bruno (project manager), Tuan (lead developer).

  • Subcontractors: DevMobile Inc. - our contact person was Olivier, Technical Project Manager for Mobile Apps.

  • Target audience: young, urban couples with a high level of income who are computer-savvy.


  • Meetings at the client’s HQ in Montreuil.

  • Project management: at our agency in London.

  • Strategy, design, creation, and web development: at our agency in London.

  • Mobile development: DevMobile, led from London with support from Asia.

  • Environment for the site delivery: hosting to be managed by the client.

  • App to be launched on Google Play Store and App Store.


  • Kick-off meeting for the project: February 3, 2015.

  • Design workshops: weeks beginning February 16 and 23, 2015.

  • Approval of the design work for the website and app: mid-March.

  • Launch of the website: by April 24, 2015.

  • Launch of the application: by May 26, 2015.


  • In-house use of the waterfall method.

  • The approval of the intermediary deliverables will trigger the start of the invoicing process.

  • Weekly monitoring done on Worklist and monthly progress meetings held with the team.

  • All documents for the project kept on a shared drive managed by our agency.

  • Website development done on CMS PHP.

  • Native development for the mobile app.

How much?

  • Overall budget for the project: €110,000.

  • We should produce a feature scope document to estimate costs (forecasted as 105 days of work for all staff members).

  • Purchasing for mobile app: €42,000 (with 20% margin).


  • To show off the client’s new offer of furniture with a modern design, especially focusing on sofas and sofa beds.

  • Modernizing the brand’s image.

  • Enabling customers to see their sofa in their living room in order to improve the conversion rate.

  • Increasing income from direct sources, reducing reliance on intermediaries.

To what end?

  • Still being on the first page of Google’s search results three months after the launch of the website for the request “customized sofa.”

  • Having at least 500 unique visitors per day on the website three months after the launch.

  • At least 5,000 app downloads within two months of the launch on the two stores.

  • Generating €60,000 in revenue in the first year.

Use an Objectives Tree

You’re aware of the client’s needs. You’ve looked at the important characteristics of the project and now need to study the project objectives.

One of the ways to present the objectives is to create a tree. Work on this as a team, at a brainstorming session, for example. Then, use it during the project definition phase and for your risk analysis. If you don’t have an objectives tree, create one now.

Some people produce theirs after having made their problem tree. But there are enough problems to deal with in this course 😉 so let’s look at how this clear, simple design looks.

Start by defining the overall project objective. You should have already identified this before this step.

Overall objective (main objective) To allow customers to see a customised sofa projected  in their living rooms in order to help them to make the right choice
Overall objective
Secondary objectives (linked to the overall objective) 1. To allow customers to see a sofa superposed onto an image of their living rooms 2. To be able to modify the sofa in order to better meet the customer’s needs/desires 3. To be able to buy the cust
Secondary objectives
Overall objective Secondary objectives Operational objectives Feature Feature
Operational objectives

For the sofa project, the secondary and operational objectives linked to the overall goal "to allow customers to see a customized sofa superposed in their living rooms in order to help them to make the right choice," were as follows:

Secondary objective #1: To allow customers to see a sofa superposed onto an image of their living rooms.

Operational objectives linked to this:

Extracting a photo from the user’s cellphone.

Integrating 3D models based on the product catalog.

Positioning the 3D model onto the photo to allow the customer to see what it would look like.  

Secondary objective #2: To be able to modify the sofa to better meet the customer’s needs/desires.

Operational objectives linked to this:

To be able to choose a sofa from the catalog of available products.

To be able to choose a shape of sofa among the shapes available for the chosen model.

To be able to choose from the list of materials available that are compatible with the chosen model.

To be able to choose from the list of colors available for the materials selected.

To be able to choose accessories that are compatible with the chosen model.  

Secondary objective #3: To be able to buy the customized sofa and to have it delivered.

Operational objectives linked to this:

To be able to add the customized model to a shopping cart.

To be able to pay in a secure fashion.

To be able to enter the delivery and billing addresses.

Depending on the project, you may also have intermediary objectives between your secondary and operational ones. Having a diagram helps you to define the project better and remain focused on your goals.

Once you have completed your objectives tree, you will have a better idea of what needs your project must meet. It’s the most efficient way of getting this critical information!

Use a Feature Scope

Sometimes you will have even more details about the project if you have initial cost estimates. At this stage, you may have a document for the scope of features.

The feature scope document contains two main pieces of information:

  • The number of screens you believe are necessary for this project (the number of different mobile app screens or website pages). At this stage, only consider the sizes (or types) of screens and estimate how many times you will need to replicate these templates. Don't worry; the number of screens at the start of the project will probably change after the design phase.

  • The document will also show the features you have identified (thus the document's name), thanks to your objectives tree. Each operational objective will lead to one or several project features.

The feature scope document will outline:

  • How many types of screens you will have to create, helping to estimate the cost of the features (zonings, wireframes, etc.) and graphic design.

  • What features you need to develop, helping to estimate the time. Make sure you consider the level of complexity.

The feature scope document may have different forms depending on the organization and the nature of the project. I often draft it in a diagram for simple interactive projects in terms of technical demands (with a user flow diagram, for example). I would use a detailed tree view for more content-oriented projects and use a table format for more complex ones.

The feature scope sample image
The feature scope

Perform a SWOT Analysis

The last thing you will need for your risk analysis is a SWOT grid. Use the project management version to make sure it is relevant.

A SWOT analysis will complement your project description, providing more information about the context. For example, you can link risks to a project (internal risks: training, structure, cost estimates, etc.) and the context (external risks: subcontractors, suppliers, regulations, etc.).

A SWOT analysis looks at both the internal and external aspects, increasing your understanding before doing your risk analysis.

Positive aspects To be taken into account in order to detect any risks Negative aspects Strengths Aspects linked to the project Weaknesses Source = internal Opportunities Aspects linked to the context Threats Source = external To be taken into account in
A SWOT analysis for project management



  • Previous experience on projects for furniture companies (knowledge of the sector).

  • A stable agency team who are used to working together.

  • A tried and tested project method. The team is aware of the different tasks and models of this method.

  • High level of web technology skills. Creative and technical staff available for the duration of the project.

  • Client pre-approval for all creative ideas.

  • Subcontracting for mobile app development.

  • No experience developing websites for customizable products.

  • At launch we did not have a detailed estimate of the costs for the project.



  • A great relationship with the client.

  • Good visibility for the project moving forward.

  • The brand and its distribution network will help promote the app and website.

  • Benjamin (who works for the client) used to work for an agency, so he knows how digital projects work.

  • A lot of people are involved from the client’s side and the approval system is unclear.

  • Communication with the factory in Stuttgart to get information about orders.

  • The strategic objectives outlined by the client will depend on more than just our project being successful.

  • The relationship between Marc (from marketing) and Vincent (IT director) is tense.

  • We don’t have enough information about the technical environment for the website.

Go over the example project description again. You will see that you now have a clear idea of what it will involve, particularly for the mobile app.

Let’s Recap!

  • Using question words provides a good overview of the critical project information and is a good starting point for identifying the generic risks.

  • An objectives tree, including operational objectives, helps outline the project’s unique aspects and can be very useful for identifying the specific risks.

  • A feature scope allows you to understand the size of the project and what you need to produce.

  • A SWOT analysis for project management provides useful information about the context of the project.

  • When combined, these methods give you most of what you need for your risk analysis. 

I’ll admit that this chapter was quite long! 😊 But it’s an important one as it helps you to understand the various dimensions of your project. So go grab a cup of tea and stretch your legs. In a couple of minutes, we’ll move to the second step: identifying the risks.

See you in a minute!

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