Introduction to writing the terms of references

In the last post, we talked about how to test the MVP concept. Let's move on to development. The development should begin with the preparation of the terms of references. The ToR is a document that contains a detailed description of the project and the requirements for its implementation. 

I identify three main stages:

1. Conceptual ToR. The team describes the project in a free manner, without technical details. The output is a document that includes goals, a concept, and a vision. All project participants must agree with this document — it is one of the main goals of the stage.

2. Draft ToR. At this stage, it is necessary to answer several technical questions about the project. Among them: which development stack to choose, the architecture of the product, what are the requirements for server capacity, and so on.

3. Final ToR. At this stage, 1-2 third-party experts are involved, who form an independent assessment of ToR. You know, before starting treatment, it is better to confirm the diagnosis with several specialists. Taking into account the expert opinion, the final version of the terms of reference is formed.

Who writes ToR?

I am convinced that the creation of a conceptual ToR be done exclusively by the project team members. Who will cope with this better than those who stand at its origins? The next two stages of creating ToR can be outsourced.

Here are two optimal options for outsourcing ToR:

1. Hire a person whose profession is to write ToR — a technical writer;

2. If you plan to outsource the development, then you can delegate the writing of the TOR to them as well. 


The Terms of References are an important part of developing an IT solution. It clearly defines the development horizon for both the customer and the contractor. Without it, it is impossible to estimate the timing of the product. In the next publication, we will analyze the structure of the ToR.



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