Project documentation is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It should be clear, relevant, and up-to-date to ensure all project stakeholders are on the same page.
But what does “the same page” really mean? It means that expectations, requirements, resources, and risks should be transparent and understood by everyone from the get-go.
In this enhanced guide, we’ll explore some of the essential project documents that every well-run project should consider and how you can leverage a SharePoint document library and BrightWork 365 to manage this crucial information effectively.
- A Quick Guide to 9 Essential Project Documents and Templates
- What You’ll Learn In This Guide:
- Understanding Essential Project Documents
- What About Essential Project Templates?
- Adapting Project Documentation for Hybrid Work Environments
- Embracing Methodology Flexibility in a Hybrid World
- 12 Essential Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Project
- 1. What are the Project Goals and Objectives?
- 2. Is There a Historical Archive of Similar Projects?
- 3. What Project Methodology Will Be Followed?
- 4. What Technology Will Be Utilized?
- 5. Who Are the Key Resources and Participants?
- 6. What is the Project Budget?
- 7. What is the Project Timeline?
- 8. What Communication Channels Will Be Used?
- 9. Are There Any Potential Risks?
- 10. What Are the Project Deliverables?
- 11. Is There a Need for Customizable Templates?
- 12. How Will the Project Status be Reported?
- 9 Essential Project Documents
- 1. Project Business Case
- 2. Project Charter
- 3. RACI Matrix
- 4. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
- 5. Risks and Issues Log
- 6. Project Communications Plan
- 7. Change Request Management
- 8. Project Schedule
- 9. Lessons Learned Register
- Manage Project Documents with BrightWork 365 using SharePoint Online
- Centralize Your Project Documents with BrightWork 365
- Seamless Integration with SharePoint Online
- Automated Folder Creation for New Projects
- Learn More About Document Management in BrightWork 365
- Mastering Essential Project Documents and Tools for Success
Understanding Essential Project Documents
Navigating the intricacies of any project requires a solid foundation, which is often laid through essential project documents. These documents act as the roadmap, guiding you from the project’s initiation to its closure.
They help set project goals, define scopes, allocate resources, and more. Essentially, these documents are not just paperwork; they are strategic tools designed to ensure everyone involved in the project is aligned and informed.
What About Essential Project Templates?
Project management templates can be a game-changer when it comes to project documentation. They offer a standardized framework streamlining the documentation process, ensuring consistency and saving time.
According to a study by the Project Management Institute, standardization of project management can significantly improve work methods.
Using templates ensures that all essential elements are covered, whether a project charter template or a risk log format. Moreover, templates can often be customized to suit the specific needs of a project, making them a versatile tool in effective project management.
Adapting Project Documentation for Hybrid Work Environments
In today’s rapidly evolving work landscape, the rise of hybrid teams – comprising both remote and in-office employees – has become increasingly common. This shift necessitates a reevaluation of traditional project documentation strategies.
According to research published on ResearchGate, the impact of project management standardization on project effectiveness is significant, especially when team members are spread across different locations, time zones, or continents.
Conventional methods may not suffice when team members are spread across different locations, time zones, or continents.
Cloud-based document management systems like SharePoint Online are becoming indispensable in this context. These platforms centralize your project documents and offer features that make it easier to keep them current and accessible, regardless of where your team is located.
With real-time updates and collaborative editing, cloud-based systems ensure that all stakeholders, whether in the office or working remotely, are literally and figuratively on the same page.
Embracing Methodology Flexibility in a Hybrid World
In the ever-evolving landscape of project management, the trend is shifting towards hybrid methodologies. This blend of Agile, Waterfall, and other approaches allows for greater flexibility in your project documentation.
A study from DiVA portal indicates that most organizations are currently using templates to carry out different parts of planning, making customizable templates a versatile tool in effective project management.
Customizable templates can be tailored to fit these diverse methodologies, ensuring your project remains on course from initiation to closure.
12 Essential Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Project
Before gathering or developing project documentation, take time to understand why the project is happening and what type of governance the project may require. It will determine how much and what kind 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 Project Goals and Objectives?
Understanding the project goals and objectives will help align all project activities and resources. It sets the stage for effective project planning and stakeholder communication.
Is There a Historical Archive of Similar Projects?
If a similar project has been completed in the past, check if project documents were archived. It can provide valuable insights and potentially save time.
What Project Methodology Will Be Followed?
Knowing whether it’s Agile project management or another methodology will help select the appropriate project management templates and tools.
What Technology Will Be Utilized?
Technology can significantly affect how smoothly the project runs, from project management software to collaborative tools.
Who Are the Key Resources and Participants?
Identifying essential resources, including human resources teams and cross-functional teams, is crucial for project success.
What is the Project Budget?
Understanding the project budget is essential for effective resource allocation, including labor and operating costs. According to a study on ScienceDirect, a supportive Project Management Office (PMO) plays a consultative role by supplying templates and necessary information, which can be crucial for budgeting.
What is the Project Timeline?
A well-defined project timeline aids in setting realistic project phases and deadlines, ensuring timely project completion.
What Communication Channels Will Be Used?
Effective communication is vital for project success. Keeping stakeholders informed is crucial, whether through status reports or formal communication plans.
Are There Any Potential Risks?
Identifying potential risks early helps create a risk management plan, ensuring you are prepared for any challenges. A study from ResearchGate suggests that companies frequently opt to implement standardized project management practices to effectively mitigate risks.
What Are the Project Deliverables?
Knowing the project deliverables will help create a detailed project plan and set project expectations.
Is There a Need for Customizable Templates?
Depending on the project’s complexity, customizable document templates may be required to streamline the planning phase.
How Will the Project Status be Reported?
Understanding the format and frequency of project status reports is essential for keeping internal and external stakeholders updated.
9 Essential Project Documents
Navigating the complexities of project management becomes significantly more manageable with the proper documentation in place. This guide outlines 9 essential project documents, ranging from the foundational Project Business Case to the insightful Lessons Learned Register.
Each document serves a unique purpose, whether defining roles with a RACI Matrix or managing changes through a formal process. Together, they provide a comprehensive framework for successfully planning, executing and closing projects.
1. Project Business Case
This document justifies the project. The kick-off document explains the project’s purpose and outlines the goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.
The business case can be a simple email from a client or a 50-page Word document with input from 10 project stakeholders.
Typically, the project sponsor is responsible for developing the business case, which can include an economic feasibility study.
To create a compelling project business case, it’s essential to justify its purpose and benefits. You can learn more about crafting a persuasive business case for PPM software on our exclusive blog.
2. Project Charter
The project charter formally authorizes the project while 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.
Creating a project charter formally authorizes and sets the stage for successful project management. If you’re looking for a free project charter template, you can find one by checking out our free project charter templates.
3. RACI Matrix
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities is crucial for any project, regardless of size.
The RACI Matrix is a great way to define and assign these responsibilities.
The Matrix charts who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and who should be Informed for each task.
Mapping this out helps to reduce confusion, distribute workload, and increase efficiency.
The RACI Matrix is a valuable tool for defining roles and responsibilities in project management. If you’re interested in learning how to create one effectively, check out this article on RACI project management.
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 organizes 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 every project element is noticed during the planning phase – making resource allocation much more straightforward.
Creating a work breakdown structure is crucial for project planning and resource management. To understand how to create one and prevent scope creep, explore this article on creating a work breakdown structure.
5. Risks and Issues Log
This is 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.
Managing risks and issues is a critical aspect of project management. If you want to improve project execution and handle these challenges effectively, consider the insights in our Improve Project Execution – AIRSC Report.
6. Project Communications Plan
This plan ensures effective communication among 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.
Effective communication is essential for project success. To create a comprehensive project communication plan, refer to our article on how to create a project communication plan.
7. Change Request Management
This document tracks 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 stakeholders authorize a formal change.
Managing change requests is a vital aspect of project management. To understand how to handle them efficiently and maintain project schedules, check out our article on change requests in project management.
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 program, making tracking late tasks and missed milestones easier.
Tools are available to do this automated, including BrightWork Simple Scheduling for light scheduling needs and Microsoft Project for complex schedules.
Creating a project schedule is essential for tracking progress and milestones. If you’re interested in using SharePoint templates to get your projects under control, explore this article on SharePoint project management templates.
9. Lessons Learned Register
The lessons learned are essential to organizational project knowledge and improvement.
Although delivered post-project, the register can be worked on throughout the project lifecycle. Recording findings at different project intervals will produce better quality and more factual insights.
The format and detail of this document will depend on the organization’s project governance and project management culture.
The entire project team should contribute to and agree on the lessons learned.
You can start working on project documentation once you answer these questions.
Capturing lessons learned is a valuable practice for continuous improvement. If you’d like to know more about it, follow this guide on lessons learned in project management.
Manage Project Documents with BrightWork 365 using SharePoint Online
Managing your essential project documents becomes a breeze with the right tools. BrightWork 365, a cutting-edge Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) software designed for Microsoft 365 offers a centralized platform for all your project documentation needs.
Centralize Your Project Documents with BrightWork 365
Once you’ve completed the necessary project documents, it’s crucial to have a robust management system in place. It ensures that your project team utilizes the correct document templates and keeps all records current.
BrightWork 365 excels in this area by allowing you to centralize your project documents effortlessly. After setting up your project templates in the BrightWork 365 PPM tool, you can navigate to its Documents tab to view, create, or upload your project documents.
Seamless Integration with SharePoint Online
One of the standout features of BrightWork 365 is its seamless integration with SharePoint Online. When you install the BrightWork 365 software, it automatically creates a dedicated SharePoint site along with an accompanying document library. All your project documents stored in BrightWork 365 are securely housed in your SharePoint Online site.
Automated Folder Creation for New Projects
With every new project you initiate, BrightWork 365 takes the extra step of creating a new folder within this SharePoint document library. This automated feature ensures that all your project documents are well-organized and easily accessible, streamlining the project management process.
Learn More About Document Management in BrightWork 365
Are you interested in diving deeper into the project portfolio management capabilities of BrightWork 365? You’re one click away from learning how this advanced PPM program can simplify your project documentation workflow.
Mastering Essential Project Documents and Tools for Success
In conclusion, the importance of having well-structured and up-to-date project documentation cannot be overstated. These essential documents are the backbone of any project, guiding you from initiation to closure.
They help set clear goals, define scopes, and align all stakeholders. Moreover, standardized templates can significantly streamline the documentation process, saving time and effort.
But what indeed elevates the management of these essential documents is using advanced tools like BrightWork 365 in conjunction with SharePoint Online. These platforms not only centralize your project documents but also offer features that make it easier to keep them current and accessible.
So, whether you’re a project management veteran or just getting started, this guide provides you with a comprehensive framework and the tools you need to plan, execute, and close projects successfully.
Remember, the key to a successful project lies not just in its execution but also in its preparation and documentation. Happy Project Managing!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.