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The Importance of Documentation in Project Management
April 14, 2021 NETRIO

The Importance of Documentation in Project Management

Posted in Blog

Documentation is a vital part of the Project Management Process

This week for NETRIO’s Whiteboard Wednesday episode, Brian and Mike are discussing Documentation, which is the fifth tenet of project management. To read about tenets one through four, check out NETRIO’s Blog for a deep dive into project management. 

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Mike Cromwell

Mike Cromwell.

Brian DeVault

Brian DeVault.

Mike Cromwell

And we’re here talking to you today from Netrio, talking about project management. And this is our fifth episode in a series talking about the eight tenets of project management, critical steps to a successful project management plan. So today we’re talking about documentation.

Mike Cromwell

So, Brian, I think we all know what documentation means, but let’s talk about the context of what components go into proper documentation.

Brian DeVault

Great topic. So when we talk about documentation, it can mean a lot of different things like we’ve talked about. So, but one of the things you want to make sure that you do as part of your project planning is set a schedule up front for what documentation you’re going to produce, who it’s going to and at what frequency you’re going to produce it. This kind of sets the stage and sets everyone’s expectation for what they should receive throughout the course of the project execution.

Brian DeVault

It’s the job of the project manager or someone that’s helping direct the project. And it should include a lot of the standard project documentation. An example is a project plan, right? An example is a performance report. We talked last episode about performance to budget versus performance to schedule. Right? So those can be different things. It should be template based. So any of these documents that you produced should be based on a template so that they’re standardized and that you’re reporting the same data when you’re reporting it at that frequent schedule.

Brian DeVault

So if you get a project status report on day two, it should look the same as a project status report on day five or day 15 or day 50, depending on the length of the project.

Brian DeVault

And then producing the meeting status report. This is invaluable here in understated, any time you hold a meeting, when you’re conducting a project or executing a project, you have notes and deliverables and changes and discussion points that come out of those project meetings, and if you’re not memorializing those in a status report of some type, they basically didn’t happen.

Brian DeVault

And so that’s a way that you can record them and communicate them with the project team so that you keep everybody on the same page and set the same schedule.

Mike Cromwell

So during the meeting, you’re capturing the notes, action items, memorializing them in the status reports. And how soon does the client see that following the meeting?

Brian DeVault

The meeting status report, barring a deliverable that you can’t capture during the meeting, should go out within an hour after the project or the meeting is complete. So I like to send them out before the call ends, you know, and it’s just capturing everything while it’s top of mind and it’s fresh on everybody’s plate.

Mike Cromwell

And how often through this documentation are you capturing and being able to highlight for the client; risks, dependencies that are going to keep the project on track by having this kind of cadence on this front?

Brian DeVault

The next tenet that we’re going to talk about is risk analysis. And that’s what you’re doing in these status reports is you’re communicating the risks that are associated with each of the tasks. And, you know, you can color code them or base them on high, medium, low, or however you want to do it as an organization. But that’s exactly what you’re capturing in those are the risks, the task updates, how you’re performing the schedule at a very high level. So it’s a summary perspective of how things are going.

Mike Cromwell

Well, there have you have it folks, the documentation step of the eight tenets of project management. Stay tuned for next week’s whiteboard Wednesday. And we’re going to get into the risk elements, which I got to assume that’s where you’re going to have to kick some ass, because I’ve seen all too often projects get delayed because of the proverbial long pole in the tents and your team been blowing through the long pole in the tents like nobodies business, so anxious to talk about that one. Stay tuned for next week’s episode. Thanks for tuning in.

What is Project Documentation?

According to Filestage, “Project documentation is the implementation of a streamlined, efficient, and uniform process for producing the key documents that are required to implement a new project successfully. For example, these documents might include, business cases, project status reports, and project requirement sheets.”

Every tenet of project management is important, but having a clear documentation process is vital to the organization, flow and success of the project. Most of us know the definition of documentation, but the context of what the elements are is critical for the project management plan. 

Components of Proper Documentation

During the project planning phase, make sure to set up a schedule upfront for what documentation will be produced. This will include who is going to produce the documentation, what documents need to be created and at what frequency. Any additional parties should be aware of this information to know what kind of documentation they can expect to see during the process. This step will set the stage and ensure everyone involved is informed and on the same page. 

The type of documentation will depend on the project, but any of these documents that are produced should be based on a template so that they are standardized and you are reporting the same data at the same frequency. Producing reliable documentation for third parties and your own team is invaluable and understated. 

During meetings, the notes should be captured along with action items and memorializing them in the status reports to send as a follow-up after the call. NETRIO recommends sending the meeting status report no more than an hour after the call.  

The Next Tenet

The frequency of project documentation leads us into our next tenet, risk analysis. In each status report, you are essentially communicating the risks associated with each task. Next week, we will dive into risk analysis as it relates to project management. 

This blog post is part of NETRIO’s weekly Whiteboard Wednesday series. Follow along on Linkedin and YouTube each week as Brian and Mike discuss use cases, new technology, and trends. The goal is to provide insights for enterprise customers and channel partners, trying to solve complex problems using technology.