Introduction to Project Documentation
Project documentation is not only a simple chore, but it can be thought of as an essential skill set in today’s age. Right from college to working professionals, working on projects is an essential 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. Right from the school level, if individuals are thought this simple but effective skill of project documentation and management, it can add a lot of 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 various 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; if not, then what has to 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 the work he has done; the project manager can trace it to the analyst who has worked on the project in terms of the work that the analyst has done and when was it done.
- It provides and serves as proof that the said project has indeed been worked up.
- In case of conflicts and disputes, documents pertaining to a project can be looked up again and can also be used to assign ownership of the project to its rightful owner.
- By simply going through the documents manager can know the status of the project and its estimated time to completion.
- And lastly, it is important that the project is arranged properly, easy to read, and adequate.
Ideally, Project managers follow standardized templates that have been used in the past for documentation; these templates are of successful projects carried out by the firm in the past. Project plans, business cases, project status, and requirements are often reused of past projects that were a success as it helps the project manager to focus on their competency, efficiency, and productivity and cutting down on 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 the project is implemented, it undergoes a lot of tests in terms of is it feasible to execute this project and take it to the implementation stage. A study of current market trends and culture along with cost-benefits associated with the project is carried out.
- 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, manpower, financial resources, technology resources, raw materials, specific skill sets, permissions, rules and regulations, approvals at various stages of the project.
- 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 he views the project. It lays out the architecture of the project.
- Work Plan/Estimate – It lays out the time frame for various components of the project; said components need to finish within the timelines stated. Actual progress is always compared to these timelines.
- Traceability Matrix – It helps trace accountability to an analyst working on specific components of the project and whom to contact in case of an issue.
- Issue Tracker – It maintains a list of all the issues; it also stores issue and their solutions that occurred in the past so that in case the issue arrives again, the solution is easily available.
- Change Management Document – It captures actual progress and all changes made in the project.
- Test Document – It saves all tests that are carried out and their 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 mentions how the project will be taken from drawing board to execution. It covers all the steps as to how to implement the project.
- Handover/ Project Closure – Project is completed, and documents are saved for future reference.
Above mentioned points were key areas and sources of project documentation at various life cycle stages of a project. Apart from the above list, there are some common project documents that arise in day-to-day projects conducted at an individual or at the 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 completion status and milestones, and next milestones.
- QA Reports – Quality assurance reports are important because you go over all the basic criteria before implementation.
Thus it is clear that project documents are of immense importance in the successful completion of 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, 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, documents of the project that arise in day-to-day projects. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –
- Google Project Management Tools
- What is Agile Project Management
- Jira Project Management Tool
- Project Management Interview Questions