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How to Create Project Documentation in 5 Steps [Templates & Examples]

How to Create Project Documentation

Project management is an indispensable part of all business functions. 

Sure, assembling a capable team is crucial, but there’s another secret ingredient that ensures your projects stay on the right path: dedicated project documentation. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “More paperwork? Isn’t that just adding to the workload when we already have a stellar team?” 

Well, hold onto your seat because you’re about to discover the incredible benefits that come with this seemingly mundane task.

Imagine a world where paperwork is reduced, your teams are effortlessly aligned, project gaps are identified and resolved, and progress is meticulously tracked. Sounds pretty amazing, right? That’s exactly what project documentation can do for you.

Dive into this blog to learn how to write project documentation, explore its impressive benefits, get access to templates, and much more. 

Stay tuned!

What is Project Documentation?

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Project documentation is an online document comprising information related to project details, milestones met, targets achieved, changes accommodated, and much more. This document acts as a centralized reference point where teams can quickly find the information they need to complete certain tasks, track progress, or check recent updates. 

From project reports and business cases to project plans, proposals, budgets, and risks, this documentation contains all the necessary information required to manage projects with ease. 

By consolidating all project information in one place, this documentation brings clarity to the project management process and helps teams stay on the same page. While this keeps the confusion at bay, team alignment and productivity also witness a substantial improvement. 

Why Is Project Documentation a Must for Your Business? 

Do you know why projects fail? 

Well, there are multiple reasons for that. From inaccurate requirements gathering to changes in project objectives, there are various reasons that cause project delays and failures.

With well-written and meticulously structured project documentation, you can avoid most of these problems. 

As a centralized space where all project details are clearly mentioned, project documentation ensures that everyone in the team is aware of the project goals, developments, vision, and scope. 

Your project teams will always have the most updated information at their disposal, which helps them perform tasks effectively. They can also document their learnings and analysis in this documentation for future reference. 

There are many other benefits of creating project documentation, which we will explore in the next section. 

Types of Project Documentation

Project documentation comes in various forms, each serving a specific purpose in managing and communicating project information. Here are some key types of project documentation you should be familiar with:

Project Charter

The project charter outlines the project’s purpose, objectives, scope, stakeholders, and high-level deliverables. It establishes the project’s foundation, providing clarity and alignment to all team members and stakeholders from the start.

Project Plan

The project plan details the approach, tasks, timelines, resources, and dependencies required to complete the project. It serves as a roadmap that guides your team throughout the project’s lifecycle, facilitating effective coordination and execution.

Requirements Documentation

Requirements documentation captures the functional and non-functional requirements of the project. It specifies the features, capabilities, and constraints that the end product or service must meet. With clear and well-documented requirements, you can ensure that the project meets stakeholder expectations and runs smoothly as intended. 

Change Control Documentation

Change control documentation outlines the procedures for requesting, reviewing, approving, and implementing changes to the project scope, schedule, or budget. It ensures that changes are carefully assessed and controlled to maintain project alignment with stakeholder requirements.

Status Reports

Status reports provide a snapshot of the project’s progress, including accomplishments, milestones reached, issues, risks, and upcoming activities. These reports help stakeholders monitor project performance and make informed decisions based on the project’s current status.

Read More: Best Software Documentation Tools for 2023

Astounding Benefits of Project Documentation 

Poor alignment, miscommunication and lack of clarity are some of the key reasons that deviate projects from the right path. 

Something as simple as building project documentation can streamline the entire process while maximizing the efficiency with which team members work. 

Let’s look at some of the remarkable project documentation benefits in detail:

Eliminates Confusion & Drives Success 

Often, project members lack clarity on project goals, client requirements, stakeholder expectations and milestones to be achieved. Project documentation has all essential project information explained in a detailed manner. This leaves little to no room for confusion and teams can carry out their project duties without any hassles. 

Brings Transparency to the Process 

It’s natural for project members to go off-track while working on projects. There can be inconsistencies in the pace and quality of task delivery. 

With project documentation at their disposal, teams have a clear picture of what is done and what is pending. This transparency helps them ramp up their efforts, ensuring that projects are delivered on time always. 

Increases Accountability

Assumptions, misinterpretations, and blame games in project management impact the overall team productivity and performance. With project documentation, team members have complete clarity of their roles and responsibilities, project scope, goals, and plans. 

This means if something goes wrong, they can take accountability for their actions instead of blaming others. 

Makes Project Tracing Easier

It’s natural for project managers to lose track of how the project is progressing while carrying out the day-to-day activities. Project documentation comprises thorough information on project progress, deadlines, and team workload. This makes it easy for managers to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t, as the project ends. 

Identify Risks & Manage Them

Risks are a part of the project management process and your team should be well-prepared to handle them. A detailed project document outlines not just the project scope, plan, and goals, but also the potential risks and their solutions. With this document, you will have a clear idea of what kind of risks to expect and how to mitigate them. 

How to Write Project Documentation in 5 Easy Steps  

Now that you’re well-acquainted with the incredible benefits of project documentation, it’s time to equip yourself with the essential know-how to create it effectively. 

It’s finally time to dive into the step-by-step process for crafting exceptional project documentation that sets you on the right path from the very beginning. 

Step 1: Bring all Scattered Documents in One Place

You might have project information scattered across Word docs, interactive PDF files, Excel sheets, and Powerpoint presentations. 

The first step to creating project documentation is to bring all this valuable information together in a centralized space. 

Modern project documentation tools offer features that help you directly import such files to the document. This makes content transfer pretty simple and fast.

As for the missing information, you will have to write it from scratch. For example, if you do not have pre-built documents for project plans and scope, create articles on these topics after discussing them with your team. 

This will put in place a single source of truth that your project team can instantly refer to every time they are stuck on a task or need assistance with something. 

Step 2: Take it Stage by Stage 

While writing project documentation, it is important to take the process step by step – one stage at a time. 

For example, the initiation stage is about setting up the team and outlining the basic requirements. For this stage, the documentation should cover the project proposal, scope, and team structure. 

After initiation comes the planning stage. For this stage, your project documentation should have thorough articles on the project plan, roadmap, communication strategy, and even the budget details. 

For the execution phase, it is important to add project status reports and potential risks expected in the course of the project. This information is essential to keep team members aligned throughout the project lifecycle. 

Changes are a vital part of any project. That makes change management an important stage in the process. Any changes requested by the client should be recorded in the change management section of the project documentation. 

Teams can quickly go through this section to keep track of the changing client requests and alter their strategies accordingly. 

Last comes the evaluation stage, when the project is delivered, and it’s time to assess what went right and what didn’t. 

Project closure details and progress reports should be a part of your documentation for this stage. This will help you track the overall project and team performance and identify bottlenecks that posed hurdles in the project. They can then implement the learnings in future projects and achieve better outcomes

Step 3: Pave Way for Collaborative Authoring 

From the previous step, it looks like project documentation is a comprehensive resource that is not possible for a single person to manage. 

You need a strong team who have the dedication and passion to consistently record all that goes on in the project – every milestone achieved, deadline met, or change requests accepted!

By deploying a tool like ProProfs Knowledge Base, you can add users and assign relevant roles and permissions to each one of them. For instance, some users can work as contributors – the ones who will do all the writing work, and some can take charge of editing all that’s written to ensure quality is not compromised. 

You can also assign the role of administrator to users who have proved themselves as capable managers. They are the ones who will take up the responsibility of overseeing every activity happening in the documentation, identifying gaps, and taking timely steps to ensure smooth operations. 

For more details on how collaborative authoring really works, watch this quick video.

Step 4: Structure the Document & Make it Easy to Search

Project documentation loaded with useful information but lacking a logical structure is counterproductive. An unstructured document is likely to make your team members confused and indecisive. 

Once you have all the information in place, try giving it a proper structure.

For example, you can create broad topics and their sub-categories to fit in all project details. You can also create a table of contents enlisting all sections and subsections of the document. 

Follow a stage-by-stage approach while structuring the document. Start by adding topics related to the initiation stage and then drill down into more complex topics on project execution, closure, and progress reports, change management, etc. 

For best results, you can make use of internal article linking to make information search even faster. This will save your team from mindless browsing and help them get what they need in just a few clicks. 

Here’s an example of what the ideal documentation structure looks like:

Step 5: Let Your Team Review the Document Before Sharing

Project documentation is supposed to be highly reliable and comprehensive. That’s precisely why all team members should collaboratively work on the document right from the start to ensure a high level of quality and accuracy. 

Creating articles is a heavy task and can take up a lot of your team’s time. In such situations, it’s natural for your team to sideline the review process and pass the content for publishing without taking a second look at it. 

Inaccurate information can wreak havoc on your projects. It can spread wrong facts in the team and completely change the track of the project. Therefore, careful review and analysis of every articles is important before taking them live. 

As and when articles are created, they should be thoroughly reviewed by editors and subject matter experts before publishing. 

The best project documentation tools out there come with a dedicated workflow review and approval system that allows you to track the status of each article right from the time it is written to when it finally gets published. This reduces the chances of any article skipping the review process. 

In the end, you can rest assured that everything that goes into your project documentation is free of errors and inaccuracies.

Step 6: Keep Updating the Documentation

The project management process is not static, so how can your document remain unchanged? 

As your project progresses, there will be multiple changes in its plan, scope, client requirements, etc. Regularly maintaining project documentation ensures that teams always have the most updated information at their fingertips. 

As a project documentation best practice, your team must keep checking the document for any inaccuracies and continue updating it with relevant information. 

Manually tracking and making all the changes can consume more time than required. 

Instead, you can use reports to track document performance and identify knowledge gaps. 

For example, if you want to identify poorly rated articles or articles that are the most helpful for your teams, you can track metrics such as article upvotes and downvotes, total views, and reads. Once you know which articles are not received well by project members, consider improving them. 

Additionally, you can also go through the comments left by team members to identify their pain points and take timely steps for performance improvement. 

Read More: Best Technical Writing Tools and Software For 2024

Best Practices for Writing an Impressive Project Document

Creating project documentation is the key to ensuring clarity, alignment, and success in your projects. It serves as a roadmap for your team, keeping everyone on track and focused on the project’s goals. 

To help you create a stellar project document, here are seven best practices to follow:

Harness the Power of Visuals

To enhance user engagement and understanding, incorporate interactive elements into your project document. You can utilize clickable links, interactive charts, or multimedia content to provide a dynamic and immersive experience to all project stakeholders. 

Interactive features and visual elements help present information in an impactful way, making it easier for stakeholders to grasp complex concepts faster.

Provide On-the-Go Mobile Access

Project documentation is only helpful if teams can access it on their mobile devices right when they need it. 

You can optimize the document’s layout and design to ensure easy access and viewing on smartphones and tablets. By creating a mobile-friendly document, you enable stakeholders to access the information conveniently, even while they are away from their desks. This flexibility promotes better collaboration, decision-making, and responsiveness among the project team.

Make it Searchable & Easy to Navigate 

Searchability and navigation are two crucial elements that should not be ignored. 

You can implement a logical structure within your project document, using headings, subheadings, and a table of contents to facilitate easy navigation. Additionally, you can incorporate a search function that enables stakeholders to quickly locate specific information within the document. 

A well-organized and searchable document saves time, enhances user experience, and ensures your teams get everything they need in seconds. 

Define Clear Objectives

Kickstart your project document by articulating clear and concise objectives. These objectives serve as the guiding light, providing your teams with a clear idea of what the project aims to achieve. 

As you start creating project documentation, clearly state the project’s purpose, desired outcomes, and measurable goals. Avoid ambiguity and ensure that stakeholders have a crystal-clear vision of the project’s direction.

With objectives clearly defined, you will be able to build a solid foundation for the project, align the team’s efforts, and drive action towards a common goal. 

Deploy the Right Project Documentation Tool

Deploying the right project documentation tool can give your efforts the much-needed boost. It will equip you with all the bells and whistles you need to get started in the right direction and achieve an impressive document. 

When investing in document collaboration tools, look for one that aligns with your team’s needs and offers collaborative features, version control capabilities, and customization options. With the right tool in place, it will be easier for your team to make content curation a collaborative process and simplify document management.  

Best Project Documentation Templates 

Writing project documentation can mean spending days or weeks doing the initial groundwork. 

What if we told you there is a shortcut to the process? 

Project documentation templates offer a ready-made framework, so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. The templates take a lot of pressure off your shoulders by giving you a pre-defined table of contents, topic-relevant sections, a dedicated space for branding, and much more. 

With these beautiful templates, your work is reduced to half, as you don’t have to work on a blank canvas. 

As your project progresses, you may want to expand the template by adding more categories and information.

Examples of Project Documentation 

While for large projects, the documentation is quite comprehensive, involving multiple change requests, documentation for small projects is mostly limited to the basics.  

However, there are some sections that are standard for all project documentation, regardless of their size and scale.

Project Proposal

Project proposal is all about ideating and communicating a project’s goals to clients and internal stakeholders. It gives a clear overview of project objectives, requirements, and value proposition. As part of the project proposal, you can highlight the number of resources that will work on the project, the budget allocation, timelines, and the key deliverables.

Project Plan

This document encapsulates everything that goes into the project planning stage. From outlining key milestones and their deadlines to setting the team, the project plan document covers it all. It acts as a roadmap for teams, guiding them in the right direction throughout the project lifecycle.

Project Charter 

While the project plan covers the “What” part of project management, the project charter covers the “how”. 

This document shows the process of achieving the goals established in the planning stage and also highlights the roles and responsibilities of all team members. The project charter provides a solid foundation for all activities that take place during the project.

Project Progress Report

Whether it is a large project or a small one, it’s crucial to keep everyone updated about how a project is progressing. This report highlights the project’s progress since the start, along with the bottlenecks that occurred during the process. It also shows the next steps you need to take to keep the progress on the right track.

Project Evaluation

Project evaluation is a vital part of project documentation. It brings into the spotlight both the best and the worst parts of the project. It shows how the project performed – what went well and what didn’t meet your expectations. Your team can use this as a reference and implement the lessons learned in the next project.

How to Choose the Right Project Documentation Software

To write impactful project documentation, you need a knowledgeable team. But to bring the documentation to life and share it with key stakeholders, you need the support of a solid tool. 

Depending on your project’s size, scope, and requirements, you may need a simple tool with basic features or an advanced tool with unique functionality. There are different kinds of online documentation software available today, but how do you know which one is worth the investment?  

Keep an eye for these top features when looking for project documentation software:  

  • Easy to use with little to no coding required 
  • Simple to set up without any specialized skills or training
  • Ready-to-use documentation templates that help you get started quickly 
  • A smart search system that displays context-relevant results 
  • User management and access control to help teams work in collaboration 
  • Internal comments for team discussions on articles
  • A workflow review and approval system to ensure content accuracy 
  • Robust integrations with tools like Slack and JIRA for smooth communication

These are the standard features that any tool you pick must have. Rest, depending on your requirements, you can also opt for tools with advanced features like reports and version control. 

Set Your Projects for Success With Project Documentation

As a project manager, you may have to handle different types of projects simultaneously. 

In such a high-pressure environment, it’s natural for you to lose sight of important project details. With up-to-date project documentation, you can rest assured that nothing important will slip through the cracks. You can easily track progress, identify bottlenecks, and fix them right in time. 

To curate an impactful project document, bring all information to a central space, add relevant articles for different stages of project management, and give them a proper structure. 

All these steps can be easily executed with the support of a powerful project documentation tool like ProProfs Knowledge Base. It has all the necessary features and functionality you need to kick off the process and take your projects on the road to success.

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About the author

Bryan Wills is a seasoned expert in knowledge management with over a decade of experience in the field. His expertise extends across various domains, including Security & Compliance, User Management, Knowledge Management, Software Documentation, and Customer Support. His writings not only reflect his deep understanding of these subjects but also offer practical solutions and strategies to help organizations enhance their knowledge management processes. Bryan’s work has been published in GetFeedback, CustomerThink, and Apruve.