A Quick Guide to 9 Essential Project Documents
What is going to be more successful – a project with two or three project documents or a project with hundreds of project documents?
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to that question; a well-run project may need either and all of the in-between.
What is certain is that project documentation should be clear, relevant, and up to date. This will ensure all project stakeholders are on the same page at the same time.
Expectations, requirements, resources, and risks should be obvious to all from the outset.
In this post, we’ll cover nine essential project documents and how to use a SharePoint document library to manage project information.
Questions to Ask Before you Start Project Documentation
Prior to gathering or developing project documentation, take time to understand why the project is happening and what type of governance the project may require.
This will determine how much and what type of project documentation is required and if any document templates exist.
Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself and stakeholders:
- What are the goals and aims of the project?
- Has a project like this been completed in the past?
- If yes, were project documents archived for future use?
- Is there a standard project methodology that needs to be followed?
- What technology, if any, can or should be used?
- Who are the key resources required for the project?
- What is the budget?
- What is the timeline?
- What communication is needed?
Once you have the answer to these questions, you can start working on project documentation.
9 Essential Project Documents
1. Project Business Case
This document provides justification for the project. It is the kick-off document that explains why the project is taking place, and the goals, objectives, and outcomes being sought.
The business case can be a simple email from a client or a 50-page word document that has input from 10 project stakeholders.
Typically, the project sponsor is responsible for developing the business case, which can include an economic feasibility study.
>> Read more: How to Write a Persuasive Business Case for PPM Software
2. Project Charter
The project charter formally authorizes the project whilst giving the project manager the authority to plan, execute, and manage the project.
Building on the business case, the project charter lays out:
- Scope of the work
- Proposed timeline
- Definition of done
- Project success factors.
As such, the project charter supports communication and makes stakeholder engagement easier.
This document needs to be approved by the appropriate officer(s) in the organization.
3. RACI Matrix
No matter the project size, roles, and responsibilities should be clearly defined.
The RACI Matrix is a great way to define and assign these responsibilities.
The Matrix charts who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who is Consulted, and who should be Informed for each task.
Mapping this out helps to reduce confusion, distribute workload, and increase efficiency.
>> Read more: How to Increase Project Visibility with a RACI Matrix
4. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
A work breakdown structure is the core of project planning, resource management, and helps to prevent project scope creep.
The WBS is used to organize the work into manageable sections, often measured in time, for example, two weeks.
The list starts with the required deliverables. This goal is further broken down into work packages and tasks needed to reach this objective.
By focusing on the bigger picture, the WBS ensures that no element of the project is overlooked during the planning phase.
This, in turn, makes resource allocation much easier.
>> Read more: How to Create Your Project Work Breakdown Structure
5. Risks and Issues Log
This is exactly what it says on the tin – a log of all risks and issues the project may face.
It is good practice to follow a standard logging format, for example, Issue name or ID, description, impact, probability, proposed mitigation, and owner or person accountable.
6. Project Communications Plan
This plan ensures effective communications amongst the project team and stakeholders.
In addition to defining communication channels, such as a weekly report, the plan also assigns responsibility to team members, for example, the project manager.
>> Read more: How to Create a Project Communication Plan
7. Change Request Management
This document is used to track formal additions or alterations to the agreed-upon deliverables during project execution.
Change management is challenging as project managers need to ensure that the change is sufficiently detailed and understood by all parties.
In most cases, change requests impact the project schedule.
Remember to check and update other project documents once a formal change is authorized by stakeholders.
8. Project Schedule
The project schedule determines what work needs to be done and when. It is the timeframe for the project.
The planned schedule is a baseline for the actual schedule, making it easier to track late tasks and missed milestones.
There are tools available to do this in an automated way, including BrightWork Simple Scheduling for light scheduling needs and Microsoft Project for complex schedules.
9. Lessons Learned Register
This is an essential document that contributes to project knowledge and improvement within an organization.
Although delivered post-project, the register be worked on throughout the project lifecycle. Recording findings at different intervals of a project will produce better quality and more factual insights.
The format and detail of this document will depend on the project governance and project management culture of the organization.
The entire project team should contribute to and agree on the lessons learned.
>> Read more: 3 Quick Steps to Capture Lessons Learned
Managing Project Documents in a SharePoint Project Site
Once you have completed the required project documents, you need a management system to make sure the team is using the right templates and are keeping documents up-to-date.
The free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork is a great way to start managing your projects – and documents – on SharePoint.
Using the document repository within the project site, bring all of your project information into one place, making it easy for the team to collaborate and work on their tasks – regardless of location or time zone.
Once you have downloaded and installed the template, click ‘add documents’ on the ‘Getting Started’ tiles:
Simply click ‘new document’ to upload the relevant file.
Continue to add project documents as needed:
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.