Project documents: best practices to manage them better

A clear and detailed project documentation is essential for the success of the project itself.

Every good project manager knows it well!

In fact, it is necessary to be constantly updated to stay on track with the project.

However, project documentation drafting can be a difficult and unloved task.

For some organizations and projects there are even legal requirements to be met for the drafting and storage of documents. These are mandatory requirements that, if not respected, can make in trouble not only the single project, but the company itself.

All clear then, project documentation is important and its correct drafting and conservation is essential.

So what’s the problem? The problem is actually very simple: most people hate to compile documentation.

It’s a time-consuming process!

It is considered boring and often underestimated or ignored not only by the collaborators who have to deal with it, but also by the people who requested it.

Each project is unique and therefore requires unique documentation to help to guide the project to a successful conclusion.

Hence, it’s very important to identify which documents are critical for each project.

Below we provide a simple project classification that could help to identify relevant documentation:

  • Small projects: these projects last one to four months. The emphasis is on speed and completion of the project as quickly as possible. Examples of such projects are the creation of a website or simply an upgrade of existing systems.
  • Medium-sized projects: these projects take up to 12 months to complete and are the standard for most companies. They are not that fast and usually involve external suppliers. The risk level and control of changes increases with respect to small projects.
  • Super dimensional projects: these are the largest and most complex projects. It may even take years to complete them. An example of this project is the construction of a building.

Determination of project documentation needs

An important question to ask itself for each project is: what is the minimum project documentation needed?

In fact, written documentation requires time and money. Therefore, project size has an impact on the number of documents needed.

Furthermore, the development of project documentation becomes even more crucial when working with public administration and public institutions.

project documents

It is, for example, the case of the medical, pharmaceutical or defense sectors.

An Australian study of CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) link to the target = blank site, which took into consideration about 350 companies, found that incomplete documentation caused a reduction in the efficiency of the project.

In cases where there was very little documentation, the projects had an average completion of 11% which, to say it is superfluous, is a very low percentage.

For small projects, the emphasis is therefore on minimum requirements and minimum documentation.

Medium-sized projects gradually require more documentation, while large projects require maximum documentary effort because they require a high level of communication and coordination.

Create the right documentation

Sometimes project managers do not want to create new documents for each of their projects.

As an alternative, they can use a wide range of proven project models.

This allows the project manager to have more time to focus on the actual project, rather than wasting time on developing new documents from scratch.

Whether the project manager manages the entire project lifecycle or simply a phase, he will still have to deal with details and information from various sources.

Thinking to the input coming from customers, users and sellers, at some point he will have to write something.

Specifically, the project documentation focuses on:

  • Define the purpose and scope of the project;
  • Identify results and key points;
  • Document the technical parameters and the technologies to be used;
  • Address the way deliverable will be built or distributed;
  • Evaluate elements such as quality, scope, resources, risks, training and costs;
  • Document any backouts or unexpected events that may occur;
  • Communicate progress and update project stakeholders.

Once again we can understand how much correct documentation is fundamental for the success of a project.

Whether it is simple paper documents or documentation sent in electronic format, it is necessary to plan and develop the project documentation before starting the project itself.

Hence, project managers must anticipate the time required to develop these documents within project planning and update the plan every time a change occurs.

What you need to document

Regardless of the organization’s structure, the ability to record and document all aspects of a project is vital to be a successful project manager.

Reports, graphs, documents, change requests and status updates must also be kept throughout the life of a project and, very often, even beyond.

project documents

It is important to consider the following to determine what to include into documention:

  • Customer documentation: a simple example is sufficient for this topic. Imagine that a customer ask to the project manager information about a decision made a couple of months ago. The customer claims to have clearly chosen a direction, but the company has decided to follow another one. Clear documentation on customer meetings, with specific dates, times and participants, will help everyone to remember the decision made and to clarify any misunderstanding.
  • Legal documents: For some projects there are legal requirements that require making specific documents. For public projects, for example, supervisory and review processes may be necessary to analyze a project after its completion. The legal requirements of a project must be clear already at the beginning of the project itself.
  • Process documentation: important processes within a project must be documented. This documentation may also be useful as a resource for any similar future projects. In case of doubt, the best approach is always to document.
  • Project Change Documentation: Project updates are essential to document when objectives, or project execution, change due to internal factors or external causes. Stakeholders must also be informed of these changes and receive the relevant documentation.

Documentation best practices

What are the best strategies to use to maintain effective, efficient and timely documentation? Here are the best practices:

  • Taking the time: many people think that the calendar is only used to setup meetings. It’s not just like that! The calendar can be used to program blocks of time to to reflect and for drafting of an essential document for the project. We need to take some time to write an official document. This can‘t happen when you keep answering the phone, writing emails and talking with your co-workers. Likewise, you can plan 10-15 minute blocks every week to review and update the documentation.
  • Enter the right details: depending on the documentation target, this must contain more or less details and, depending on the role of the target audience, the details must be of a certain type or another. For example, an engineer will need the project technical details, while a marketing manager will be focused on other factors. The project manager must to consider the right level of detail in the documentation.
  • Smart Storage: documentation must be easy to identify and easily accessible. This also includes the use of clear and easily identifiable keywords.
  • Share: the documentation must be shared and must not be saved individually on the project manager’s PC. Sharing the documentation, with the right collaborators, also allows you to receive constructive feedback if changes are necessary.
  • Updating the documentation: as the project progresses, it is necessary to ensure that the project documentation is correctly updated. Needless to waste time in writing initial documents and then lock them in oblivion.

In conclusion, documentation is certainly a difficult topic for many project managers, but it is a fundamental tool that in some cases can even simplify the execution of the project.

Hence it’s important to give the right value to the project documentation.

That’s why in TWproject we have made the life easier!

Document management is a large topic, so there are dozens of specific applications (called DMS).

In Twproject we don’t want to compete with these specific tools. We are, in fact, aware that every company has its own system of document storage, tested and structured.

That’s why we have chosen to keep the management of documents to the essential. At the same time we have decided to integrate this aspect with some powerful and simple technique.

Therefore, we have created an intelligent system for managing and archiving project documents in Twproject.

Your documents will always be one click away from your projects (and resources, and even from issues).

You will be able to connect and access to your documents in two ways:

  • Uploading a document directly to TWproject
  • Creating a link to a file archive
  • Adding a link, if you already have a document repository,

In this way you will have access to your documents directly from Twproject: a single place from where to manage everything and put everything available to the team.

Not bad, right?

All while working, also remotely or accessing from mobile.

In short, we have tried to meet all the needs of the PM to concretely support the need to manage project documents.

And what is your relationship with the project documentation?

Is it a difficult task for you or are you part of the project managers who not struggling dealing with it?

Give us your opinion, but above all, tell us what are the needs about that.

We would like to know what else we may implement in the software to improve your work.

Manage your project documents.

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