How to Standardize Project Documentation on SharePoint
Having the right project documentation and an easy way to manage these documents is essential to remote project management.
In this article, I’ll explain how to standardize and manage project documents using the Free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork.*
We’ll start with a review of six key documents for your projects and best practice tips for file management. We’ll cover how to create, use, search, and track documents in a SharePoint document library.
Benefits of Project Documentation
The project manager is the main communication channel in a project, especially when working remotely.
Stakeholders, team members, vendors – everyone wants to talk to you! You need to get your project documents under control and fast.
There are several benefits of project documentation, including:
- A single, accurate record of project work.
- Easier reporting with all information in one place.
- Clear descriptions of individual roles and responsibilities, which can prevent conflict or misunderstandings later on.
- Improved collaboration within the team, who can easily find relevant documents as needed.
- Better communication with stakeholders.
- Creating a single source of team knowledge, an important resource for distributed teams.
6 Key Project Documents
Depending on the nature of your project and local guidance, there are many types of project documentation to consider. Below is a suggested list of essential documents to consider for your project.
1. Business case
This document is part of the Initiation Phase and is used to secure approval for the project.
2. Project charter
The project charter is the most important document for any project manager. The document is the source of formal approval for the project and supports your authority as project manager. Simply put, the project cannot exist without it!
3. Project Statement
Created during the planning phase, the project statement, or statement of work, explains how your team will deliver the requirements outlined in the project charter.
By defining what is and is not included in the project, the statement is a critical way to manage project scope.
4. Project Communications Plan
The communications plan explains who needs to receive what information, when, and in what format, for example, a weekly meeting with the project sponsor.
5. Risk Register
This document should include details of the risk and task owners.
6. Lessons Learned
During project post-mortem and closure, document lessons learned to help improve internal processes and future projects.
Remote project teams rely heavily on documentation. The above list is a strong starting part and will add structure to your project. To support collaboration, add other documents such as meeting minutes, decisions, feedback, processes, suggestions for improvements, and so on.
Once you have decided what documents you need, you’ll need to find an easy way to store and manage the files.
A SharePoint document library brings all project documents into a single repository, offering powerful management and search options.
The SharePoint Document Library
Collaboration is core to SharePoint and finding the right information at the right time is key to effective collaboration.
With a SharePoint document library, it’s easy to centralize all project documents in one place. Finding relevant information also becomes much faster!
In a SharePoint project site, a document library is a special type of list used to store, manage, and find documents.
In SharePoint Server 2019, the default site includes a document library; you can also add more document libraries to your project site as needed.
Using a document library in SharePoint, you can:
- Add, edit, delete, and download documents.
- Co-edit documents in real-time.
- Use version control to restore older versions of a file.
- Manage who has access to a library, a folder within a library, or an individual file within a library.
- Track the activity on a file, including the last modification.
- Set up alerts to track changes to a document.
- Create a custom view of a document library.
- Share files or folders with others using links instead of email attachments.
- Build different libraries for different types of content.
Naming and Storing Your Project Documentation
Before you start adding documents to your SharePoint project site, it’s important to agree on a standardized approach with your team.
Firstly, you should decide on a naming convention as this will make it easier to search for files.
In this article, I’m using the example of a website redesign project and have included the area of work in the name of each file. For example, planning documents will include ‘plan’ in the title; the same applies to ‘content’, ‘design’ and so on.
- Plan_Project Charter
- Content_New Homepage Copy
- Design_Brief for Forms.
If our designer wants to find a document, all they need to do is search ‘design’ in the document library.
Next, to eliminate mistakes arising from multiple versions of the same file, only one copy of each file will exist in the project site.
Ask your team to download and work on the relevant file stored in the site instead of creating multiple versions of the same document with different dates or notes added to the title.
- Content_New Homepage Copy_211118
- Content_New Homepage Copy_Final
- Content_New Homepage Copy_Final Final
Correct: Content_New Homepage Copy.
To ensure edits to your document are synced to the library, download the document using Microsoft Edge. Otherwise, you’ll end up with ‘read-only’ copies of the file you will need to save locally and re-upload to the site.
Finally, it’s best to avoid adding folders to your document library. Everyone has their own way of managing their files and folder on their local machine. Imagine how confusing your document library would be if the team re-created their own approach in the project site!
The search and metadata capabilities in SharePoint eliminate the need for folders.
Now that you know why project documentation is key and how to standardize your documents, it’s time to create your document library in SharePoint.
How to Manage Project Documentation with a SharePoint Template
1. Add Documents to the SharePoint Library
Once you have downloaded and installed the Free Template, launch your project site.
Using the third tile highlighted below, add documents to the document library.
Simply click ‘new document’ to upload the relevant file.
Continue to add documents as needed throughout the project. Simply click ‘Documents’ under ‘Initiate and Plan’ in the quick launch menu.
2. Searching Project Documents in SharePoint
To search for a document, just click in the search box in the top right-hand corner of your site or document library.
3. Tracking Project Documents in SharePoint
You can add an email alert to any file in your SharePoint document library. Imagine the content for the homepage of your new website is finalized and approved. You want to make sure no one changes this content as it forms the basis of design.
First, select the relevant document and click ‘files’ from the editing menu at the top of the project site.
Next, choose ‘Alert Me’ and click on ‘set alert on this document’.
Fill in the various fields on the form and chose when you wish to receive a notification. Press save.
*You will need to be a site collection administrator to implement the steps in this article. The Free Template works on SharePoint 2019/2016/2013/2010 and SharePoint Online (in classic mode).
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.