may 15, 2024

The importance of a properly drafted ToR

The Terms of Reference (ToR) is a key document that determines the success of any project. Regardless of the scope and specifics of the project being developed, a properly drafted TOR plays a crucial role in achieving the desired result. In this article, we will look at why a well-crafted TOR is so important.

Rules for drafting a "good" ToR:

  • Use of simple and accessible language to ensure that the content of the document is understood not only by technical specialists, but also by sales managers and the customer’s team.
  • Correlation of the scope of the TOR with the scale and complexity of the project. The more complex the project, the more extensive the package of preparation documentation should be.
  • A clear and unambiguous statement of requirements for the final product or service. Requirements should be stated as clearly and concretely as possible to eliminate the possibility of ambiguity. Introduction of a glossary for abbreviations.
  • Structured and logical construction of the document. The ToR should be well organised, with clear division into sections and subsections for easy navigation and understanding. An example is provided at the end of the article.
  • Definition of acceptance criteria and methods to verify compliance. The ToR should clearly state the criteria by which the quality of the work performed will be assessed, as well as the methods of verifying that the final product meets the requirements.
  • Identification of possible risks, constraints and problem areas that may affect the project implementation.

With a properly drafted ToR, the following problems are solved:

1. Clear understanding of the requirements

The ToR serves as a basis for defining specific requirements for the project. It allows all project participants (customers, developers, managers, …) to have a common vision of the final product. A quality ToR eliminates uncertainties and prevents disagreements at later stages of the project.

2. Saving time and resources

A well-developed ToR can save time and resources by preventing the need to make costly changes to work that has already been completed. When requirements are clearly defined from the outset, the project team can focus on completing tasks efficiently, without being distracted by clarifying details.

3. Quality control

The ToR serves as a basis for assessing the quality of the work performed. If the requirements are clearly defined in the ToR, it is much easier to check whether the final product fulfils these requirements. This ensures a high level of quality and reduces the risk of future problems.

4. Risk management

An unserious approach to drafting and studying the terms of reference is fraught with a number of negative consequences. At best, it can lead to additional time costs, at worst — to disagreements between the parties and a product that does not meet the customer’s requirements. To prevent such situations, the customer should also take the time to read the TOR, participate in the discussion during drafting and thoroughly familiarise himself with the finished document.

5. Simplifying the change of performers

The development of a large project, such as the creation of a website or an application, can take several years. If at the initial stage it becomes obvious that the contractor is not up to the task, having a ToR makes it much easier to reject his services and find a new contractor, saving time on clarifying requirements.

Below is an example of TOR structure used in the company's practice:

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