Ever thought to yourself that you could complete one more project if you didn’t have to do the documentation? Don’t worry you’re not alone in that! So many project managers use this statement because, if we’re being real, project documentation is one of the least interesting areas for a manager — for a good enough reason: it is rarely applauded by the higher ups. However, this does not mean that project documentation is not important. In fact, any good project manager will tell you that it is a crucial part of project management right off the bat and up until the finish.
According to the Project Management Institute, the most important job for a project manager is to understand the project lifecycle, adjust and adapt to trends and stay on track. This is easily achievable by defining the scope and stay on top of your documentation by defining stages, budgets and having a summary for every stage of your project. While it may not be apparent, documentation has the benefit of simplifying the project and information needed, accessing details on activities and providing a basis for great decision-making. On overall, this is extremely helpful in effective and easy project monitoring and control.
Why Project Documentation?
The simple reason why every project regardless of its size or complexity requires project documentation is to track project progress & performance and hence, enable effective decision-making. However, there are many different benefits of ensuring you stay on top of project documentation. In fact, while project documentation often seems like a herculean task for project managers but in fact it can end up saving their jobs in the event that there are project issues and disputes regarding the project status and outcomes that a manager is responsible for. Since the project documentation is the basis for quality, traceability and history of the entire project as well, then it is of extreme importance in case of addition of new resources or team members to the team.
Here is what project documentation is used for:
·Project documentation helps in defining the scope of the project and to ensure that all the stakeholders and team members are in agreement and share similar expectations on the expectations, requirements, and timelines of the project among other aspects.
· It enables the definition of how disputes among the various team members and stakeholders can be shared in case such situations arise.
· Project documentation also serves as a historical reference that provides details regarding the project and can used by the same team or other teams to ensure the success of future projects.
The Significance of Project Planning/Documentation
Since we are aware of how documentation is used by project managers, team members and stakeholders, let’s review the benefits of doing project documentation. Besides making the project manager seem thorough and detail oriented, documentation increases the likelihood of success and also makes projects seem easy by reducing the stress on you and your team. Project management has 5 major phases it usually follows: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control, and Closure. There are quite a number of direct as well as indirect benefits of project documentation. Here are a few:
· It guides the manager, team members and stakeholders in understanding expectations and context. The initial document in project management is the project charter and besides offering such guidance, it also helps the members in creating a plan that can help them achieve their deliverables. It is the compass to the sailor and lack of this document means lack of the clarity and direction needed to initiate the project.
· Documentation helps you as the project manager measure the project deliverables against the project management plan which helps you stay on track even while handling multiple projects. This means that without the project plan, then you can easily fall behind by failing to track deliverables and project progress.
· It establishes the communication trajectory. One of the documents involved in project management is a communication plan and this lays down the why, the whom, the how and the when regarding communication of project status and progress. Having this documentation will therefore help you honor all the communication required for the project.
· One of the most important aspects of project management is scheduling. With scheduling, it is easy to know which activities are involved and when they should happen. Scheduling reduces unnecessary risks and surprises and helps you figure out a timeline for the tasks in your project which is crucial in predicting progress. Besides, scheduling also helps you understand all the project requirements and activities which helps in creating detailed work breakdown structures. Armed with these structures and timelines, it becomes easy for a manager to create deliverables and track progress and success.
· Another equally important task for a project manager is to stay within budget. It is easy to overestimate or underestimate resources needed in a project and hence, for effective resources management, then documentation to identify required resources as well as outline the roles and responsibilities of team members is important. Staying within budget is the hallmark of a good project manager and according to Susan Goebel, contributes towards risk management and stakeholder management.
In a nutshell, no project manager worth their salt underestimates how important project documentation is to the project itself and the team as a whole. It is a time saver and helps you seem assured by saving you from struggling with taking the necessary decisions and actions required for the project as they will be all based on facts.
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