An essential guide to effective project documentation management
During a project there is a lot of project documentation that gets generated. The degree of documentation varies from project to project, and is affected by things like:
- Which methodology is employed
- Your company’s specific documentation requirements
- Size and scope of project
- Type of project (development, business, HR etc.)
- Client documentation requirements
Different project documentation is important for different reasons.
Why is project documentation important in project management?
One of the most important reasons for project documentation is to provide a record of the project. In the future, if someone had to look back at it for whatever reason, they should be able to find out what happened, who was involved, what the scope was etc. Project documentation is required for project control. If you have a documented scope, you can control any changes that come in. If you don’t, people may argue that an item was part of the scope to start! Project documentation can also assist the project team with their tasks. For example, a software developer will need a full requirements document to develop a proper solution.
5 key areas that need project documentation management
In terms of possible documents for all types of projects, methodologies, clients etc. there are just too many to name! We will focus on the five key documents that should almost always be used, and why.
- Scope – your project scope is so important to set a baseline for what the project must deliver. Often, there may be requested changes from stakeholders along the way so having a properly documented scope will help you to control the changes and avoid delivering the wrong thing!
- Stakeholder Management Plan – this is very important to assist you with managing stakeholders, which ultimately is a key factor for project success. Knowing who is involved, what they want to see in terms of reports etc., and how often they want to see it will help guide a lot of your actions during the project.
- Minutes of Meetings – these are so important, as your regular project meetings will involve actions, decisions, risk mitigations, show who is attending meetings and who isn’t, as well as keep everyone up to date with progress and what is coming next. Proper project meeting minutes are often overlooked but are one of the most important things a project manager can have.
- Project Plan – you need to know what has to happen, who is doing what, and by when it must be done. So do your project team. This is very important to help keep track of where the project is, and any slippages!
- Reports – these are important to keep a running history of your project, keep stakeholders informed, and to help you as a project manager make sure you are managing your project correctly (e.g., if the same actions sit on the report weekly without being done and you don’t raise it, that is not good project management!)
Advice and tips for managing project documentation
Managing project documentation correctly makes it easier for you to keep on top of them as the project progresses.
To ensure you’re staying on track with the project that was agreed and keeping all relevant parties happy, it’s best to keep a record from the start.
- At the beginning of your project, once you’ve had your kick-off meetings and everyone is allocated, you need to get your scope documented and signed off as soon as possible.
- If people are refusing to sign the scope off for whatever reason, it must be highlighted that you cannot continue as it will likely lead to changes down the line that will impact timelines and quality.
- Any time a request comes in for a new task, requirement etc. you need to refer to your scope. If this item was not included in the signed-off scope, then it must be logged as a change request, that is approved by the Project Sponsor, key stakeholders, and yourself as project manager.
- Keep a log of all requested changes, showing what they are, who requested them, and what impact they have to budget, time and quality. This will be important if stakeholders later question why there are delays, budget increases etc.
Stakeholder Management Plan
You need to review your stakeholder management plan regularly as levels of stress may change, levels of involvement from stakeholders may vary. You might need to adapt your people and stakeholder management accordingly.
- Remember to avoid keeping things cold and distant, such as emailing reports. Engage directly with your project team and stakeholders alike to keep your relationships strong throughout your project for a successful outcome!
Anytime you have a project meeting, take minutes. These don’t always have to be on a formal minutes document, they can just be an email sent out after the meeting outlining what was discussed and who it was discussed with, but always have a record.
- For your big project meetings, use an agreed template to capture minutes, and make sure the people who get sent the minutes read them and understand any actions/items against their name.
- Be sure to list who attended, who gave apologies that they couldn't attend, and who just didn’t attend. All action items captured on the minutes need to have both someone assigned to them, and a deadline by when they need to be completed.
- It can be helpful to send out a reminder prior to the next meeting for people to check their items and make sure that they can provide proper updates in the next session. You don’t want to waste everyone’s time by having meetings discussing the same actions!
Once your plan is prepared and baselined, make sure it’s kept up to date.
- Set aside weekly timeslots with your key resources to sit and update the project plan. If your team want to send you updates for their actions they can, but sometimes it helps to sit with them and go through it to be sure that you are on the same page!
- When updating your project plan, remember to check for any knock-on effects, any delays, and any items that may affect other resources or tasks. These items must then be raised, and a solution reached.
Agree a format for reports at the start of your project - should they be a presentation, an email, a document, or something else?
- Whatever format you use, make sure that the project report is conveying the right level of information for the audience, even if this means having a general team report and a separate Project Sponsor report.
- With project reporting, it’s important to make sure that you aren’t just reporting for reporting’s sake. Make sure the information in the reports is useful, serves a purpose (e.g., raising a risk), and is explanatory enough for someone reading it. The information on your reports should tie into your other documentation. For example, check the following items:
- Are risks on your report captured in a central Risk Register?
- Are the due dates of tasks in your reports aligned to your Project Plan?
- Are the tasks themselves aligned to both your Plan and your Scope?
- If you are using colour indicators such as a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) status on your project reports, where Green is on track, Amber is fixable, and Red is not fixable, do the colours match the report? If everything is showing as Red but there are no issues or risks reported, then either the colours or the report content is wrong.
PPM software for project documentation management
Useful, time-saving Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) software like Fluid provides a huge amount of functionality that can make the day-to-day of project documentation management, easy. The Fluid Meeting functionality helps to keep all your minutes in one place, automatically firing them off to all relevant parties at the click of a button. This also helps keep track of the actions and decisions, taking one more manual task off your plate.
Reporting dashboards can easily be saved and used for future reporting too so you don’t need to spend hours creating multiple reports for different stakeholders, instead the dashboards can be ready for export as you need them. Fluid Projects have the useful functionality of storing all documents on the project itself, giving you a single filing destination for all those important documents.
Drop us a message to learn how Fluid can help you manage your documents with ease.