Terms of reference

Terms of reference, abbreviated as TOR, describe the purpose and structure of a project, committee, meeting, negotiation, etc. When used with regard to a project, they can also be known as a project charter.

Terms of reference should document how the scope will be defined, developed, and verified. They should also provide a documented basis for making future decisions and for confirming or developing a common understanding of the scope among stakeholders. In order to meet these criteria, success factors/risks and restraints should be fundamental keys.

Creating detailed terms of reference is critical, as they define the:

  • Vision, objectives, scope and deliverables (i.e. what has to be achieved)
  • Stakeholders, roles and responsibilities (i.e. who will take part in it)
  • Resource, financial and quality plans (i.e. how it will be achieved)
  • Work breakdown structure and schedule (i.e. when it will be achieved)

They should include:

  • Success factors/risks and restraints.

The terms of reference set out a road map. They give a clear path for the progression, by stating what needs to be achieved, by whom and when. There must then be a suite of deliverables which conform to the requirements, scope and constraints set out in this document.




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