Updated May 22, 2023
Introduction to Project Documentation
Project documentation is not only a simple chore, but it can be considered an essential skill set in today’s age. From college to working professionals, working on projects is an integral part of one’s daily work routine; thus, it becomes of imperative importance that one understands how to document, safeguard and preserve one’s project for verification proof and future reference. Starting from the school level, teaching individuals the simple yet effective skills of project documentation and management can significantly enhance efficiency and productivity in their professional work. Taking a Macro perspective, project documentation is an integral part of Project Management.
There can be various types of projects in multiple streams that individuals work on; documentation can be of immense benefit and value to the Project Manager because:
- He can see whether all project requirements have been fulfilled and what must be done.
- In case of issues, he can trace them to the source of the issue and work on providing specific solutions.
- It can hold an individual accountable for his work; the project manager can trace it to the analyst who has worked on the project in terms of the work the analyst has done and when it was done.
- It provides and serves as proof that the said project has indeed been worked up.
- In case of conflicts and disputes, stakeholders can consult project documents again to determine and assign ownership of the project to its rightful owner.
- By simply going through the documents manager can know the project’s status and estimated completion time.
- And lastly, the project must be appropriately arranged, easy to read, and adequate.
Ideally, Project managers follow standardized templates used in the past for documentation; these templates are of successful projects carried out by the firm. Often, successful past projects serve as a source of project plans, business cases, project status, and requirements, which can be reused for future projects. It helps the project manager focus on their competency, efficiency, and productivity and reduce excess paperwork that becomes difficult to track and manage.
Below is a snapshot of key stages in the life cycle of a project and how each stage generates essential project documents that can be used for verification, future references, and verification.
- Feasibility Report – Before implementing the project, it undergoes thorough testing to assess its feasibility and determine if it can progress to the implementation stage. The project team conducts a study on current market trends, culture, and cost-benefits associated with the project.
- Project Charter – It lays an overview of the project, mentions key components and objectives of the project, and serves as a benchmark. It helps the manager follow key objectives time and again.
- Requirement Specification – It mentions all the requirements needed to execute the project, including manpower, financial resources, technology resources, raw materials, specific skill sets, permissions, rules and regulations, and approvals at various project stages.
- Design Document – It lays down the design structure of the project; it is made in such a way that it is easy to comprehend by an outsider when viewing the project. It lays out the architecture of the project.
- Work Plan/Estimate – It lays out the time frame for various project components; said components must finish within the stated timelines. We always compare the actual progress to these timelines.
- Traceability Matrix – This helps trace accountability to an analyst working on specific project components and whom to contact in case of an issue.
- Issue Tracker – It maintains a list of all the issues; it also stores issues and their solutions that occurred in the past so that the solution is easily available in case the issue arrives again.
- Change Management Document – It captures actual progress and all changes made in the project.
- Test Document – It records all conducted tests and their corresponding answers.
- Technical Document – It lays out all technical requirements in terms of technology, design, and specifications.
- Functional Document – It focuses on how to carry out various functions and guidelines to follow while executing them.
- User Manual – Overview of all processes, rules, and regulations. Like a standard operating procedure.
- Transition/Roll-Out Plan – It outlines the process of taking the project from the drawing board to execution. It covers all the steps as to how to implement the project.
- Handover/ Project Closure – The project is completed, and documents are saved for future reference.
Above mentioned points were key areas and sources of project documentation at various project life cycle stages. Apart from the above list, some common project documents arise in day-to-day projects conducted at an individual or company level.
- Project Schedule – Mentions time frame, resources, and project costs.
- Risk Management – It mentions all the risks that could arise in the project; you can rank them and allocate resources accordingly.
- Issues Logs – Mentions all operational issues that arise and their solutions.
- Project Budget – Most important document mentions the total cost and returns expected from the budget.
- Status Report – It mentions the completion status and milestones and the next milestones.
- QA Reports – Quality assurance reports are essential because you go over all the basic criteria before implementation.
Thus it is clear that project documents are of immense importance in successfully completing a project. Project documents should be clear, simple, relevant, and up to the mark. Each project is different in terms of size, scope, deliverables, and life cycle. These project documents should be appropriate for the project in question.
Project documents should make life easier for the project manager and all those involved. It should clearly state all requirements, risks, and resources so that all the stakeholders are on the same page.
This has been a guide to Project Documentation. Here we have discussed the key stages in the life cycle of a project and documents of the project that arise in day-to-day projects. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –