Project documents serve essential purposes in the running of a project.
Project Documents – The Benefits
Not many people we speak with actually enjoy compiling and reviewing project documents. As a Project Manager, however, I hope that you appreciate that project documentation provides the core to your project. The various documents that your project produces and maintains serve a number of very useful functions. The act of writing, reviewing, authorizing and circulating project documents generally produces these important benefits:
- sharpens thinking through having to transform vague thoughts into written words
- facilitates discussion amongst the various stakeholders around important issues
- records agreement on certain principles, actions and changes
- communicates to the various stakeholders project status and issues
Project documents, along with project meetings, form the glue that binds the disparate stakeholders together to achieve a common purpose. Use documents to your advantage in advancing the interests of your project. Avoid seeing them as a useless and time-wasting exercise.
Project Documentation Examples
Decide at the outset which documents your project needs to deliver. Producing documents simply for the sake of producing them or because someone asked for them will become an exercise in mindless bureaucracy. The type and scope of your project documentation will depend on the duration and complexity of your project. Common project documents include:
- Business Case
- Project Definition
- Project Plan
- Requirements Specification
- Project Schedule
- Stakeholder Communication Plan
- High-level Design
- Implementation Plan
- Risk Register
- Issues Register
- Change Control Register
- Project Review Report
- Benefits Realization Plan
The above list is by no means exhaustive. Some project documents may be subsumed under others, especially for smaller projects. The trick is to know which documents to produce and when and for what kind of project. This know-how will come with experience. However, you will need to decide at the beginning of the project which documents will be produced and at what stage of the project. These should be listed amongst the deliverables specified for the end of each project phase.
For each document your project produces, other things to consider are:
- Who will compile, review and authorize it?
- To which individuals and stakeholder groups will it be circulated?
- How will successive versions be controlled?
An all too common occurrence that I see is people turning up to meetings to discuss different versions of the same document. This is a huge time waster —and frustration generator. To avoid frayed nerves and confusion, ensure that you implement a method for controlling and communicating version changes. A project document is only worthwhile if everyone is reading from the same page.