A briefing document is a good communication vehicle to keep others abreast of issues or situations in a professional manner. A briefing document identifies a particular problem, with the goal of getting others to also address the issue. This type of document also usually offers a proposed solution or recommendations for the presented problem.
Tips for Writing a Briefing Document
Purpose of a Briefing Document
Briefs and briefing documents are used in a variety of settings. They are used across different professional settings to address issues in a formal way. Lawyers call them legal briefs and those in government refer to them as briefing notes. The main goal is to address an issue, persuade others to join in and/or offer a solution to a problem.
Writing Tips for Effective Briefing Documents
In order to utilize tips for writing a briefing document you must understand the purpose of this type of document. Not only do these documents present an issue formally, but they also allow others to review an issue or situation that needs to be addressed so a decision can be made about how to proceed.
Keep It Brief
A briefing document should be no longer than two pages. It should get directly to the matter of the issue and provide a thorough overview without being lengthy.
Use Concise Language
Briefing documents should be, as the name suggests, brief. This is not the place to be verbose or use figurative language. Instead, use clear, concise sentences to explain the issue(s) at hand clearly and directly. State the situation and potential resolutions clearly, using as few words as possible.
Use an Easy-to-Follow Format
The information in a briefing document should be presented in an informative and practical structured format. The content should be broken down into chunks so the details are easy for readers to follow. Use short sentences, small blocks of text and bullet points to ensure maximum skimmability. The structure should include:
- the issue or topic, including background and current status
- important details relevant to the issue
- recommended options for resolving the matter
A briefing document is not the place to posit theories or speculate. It should include an overview of factual information with potential solutions that logically follow from the facts. Evidence or sources should be provided for any issues or facts mentioned in the document.
Steps in Writing a Briefing Document
Understanding how to write a briefing paper is important when presenting concerns in a professional manner. Follow these steps when drafting a briefing document to ensure that the information is presented appropriately.
Step 1: Summarize Key Information
As the author of a briefing document, it is your job to filter through interview transcripts, papers and other materials to pull out what is important for others to review. While you should hold on to all relevant research materials, don’t include extensive appendices or attachments with a briefing. The document you produce should stand on its own without requiring readers to dig through other documents for corroborating information.
Step 2: Verify Details
It is very important for you to verify that all details and other information included in the briefing document are factual and reliable. Other individuals will be relying on the information to determine whether or not they will support the resolution of your issue or wish to propose alternative courses of action. Everything in the document must be accurate; any claims should be backed up with data.
Step 3: Propose Alternatives
Briefing documents should go beyond simply describing a situation to also propose one or more potential solutions. Any solutions proposed should be feasible and reasonable. Since one of the purposes of a briefing document is to get others to assist and agree on the issue and help with its resolution, potential solutions should be presented in a persuasive manner.
Step 4: Do Quality Control
It is very important that you take the time to make the document accurate, easy to read and easily accessible. Once you have completed a draft, review it closely to identify areas where other information may be needed or sources may need to be added, making absolutely certain that everything is correct and properly sourced. Ensure that everything flows well and the format is easy to follow. Check for errors and make any adjustments needed.
Step 5: Edit and Proofread Carefully
Take the time to edit and proofread your briefing document prior to presenting it to your colleagues or other professionals. Double-check the content and review the document for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Get at least one other person to review the document to check for errors and omissions, and to make sure that someone who hasn’t dug through all of the research material can fully understand the situation described in it.
Sample Briefing Document
Reviewing an example of a briefing document is a great way to get a better idea of how to apply these tips and follow these steps. The briefing paper example below focuses on updating a company’s management team on implementation of a new software program. It provides information about what has been done so far, letting them know what still needs to be decided, and asking for input.
Brief: Status Update on HR Software Implementation
The purpose of this brief is to provide members of the leadership team with an update regarding implementing XYZ Company’s new human resource information system (HRIS).
- Expert HR Tech has been selected as our new HRIS application.
- The Expert HR Tech implementation team is currently working on customization.
- Our HR and accounting teams are gathering data requested by Expert HR Tech that is necessary to begin converting our data. This data is due by December 2, 2020.
- The data conversion is expected to take approximately four weeks, which means that we may be able to go live with the new system in early January of 2021.
- We need to notify Expert HR Tech if we prefer to implement the system one module at a time, or if we prefer to wait until the entire system is ready to go live.
- We also need to set up some virtual training sessions so that key personnel will know how to use the new system prior to its implementation.
- The HRIS committee recommends opting for a module-by-module implementation. It is our belief that this approach will help make the transition go as smoothly as possible. By gradually introducing the new system, training can be staggered. This will also help make sure that problems (if any) can be identified early in the rollout. This is the option the software vendor (Expert HR Tech) suggests as being the most effective.
- We suggest scheduling an initial training session for team leaders two weeks prior to implementation of the first module, with additional weekly sessions for employees through the first week of the initial rollout.
- We suggest assessing additional training needs at that time, as the system will be live and we will have feedback from the initial groups who created the training. It may be necessary to schedule additional training with Expert HR Tech for the remaining teams, though it is our hope that the rest of the training can be handled in-house.
Please advise regarding your thoughts on the above recommendations by September 15, which is the day before the next HRIS committee meeting.
- We will need to provide Expert HR Tech with a decision about our preference for implementation (module-by-module or all at once) no later than November 1.
- In order to begin training in advance of implementation, we will need to provide them with our preferred initial training dates by that time as well.
Respectfully Submitted by
Cindy Wilson, HRIS Committee Leader
Enhance Your Professional Writing Skills
Briefing documents are commonly used in professional settings. Now that you have an idea of how to create this kind of document, explore ways to expand other writing skills that can be useful in your professional career. Start by improving your technical writing skills. If you are already comfortable with technical writing, consider learning how to write user manuals.