Project management is an indispensable part of all business functions.
Be it design, marketing, development, or any other department – their success depends largely on how smoothly each project is executed from start to finish.
While employing a capable project management team is a must, you also need dedicated project documentation to keep your projects on the right track always.
Initially, you may feel writing project documentation is an added burden, especially when you have a great team to handle projects. Wait till you find out the amazing benefits that this documentation offers.
From reducing paperwork and keeping your teams aligned to identifying gaps in the project and tracking its progress, there is a lot that project documentation can help you with.
Besides explaining how to write project documentation, this blog also guides you on its benefits, examples, templates, and much more.
Dive right in to find out.
What is Project Documentation?
Project documentation is an online document comprising key 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.
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, it also improves team alignment and productivity.
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 change in project objectives, there are various reasons that cause project delays and failures.
With well-written and 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.
Teams always have the right and 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.
Astounding Benefits of Project Documentation
As we all know, poor alignment, miscommunication, 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 major project documentation benefits in detail:
1. Reduces Confusion
Often, project members lack clarity on project goals, client requirements, stakeholder expectations, project milestones, etc. 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.
2. Increases Transparency
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, teams have a clear picture of what is done and what is pending. This transparency helps them ramp up their efforts on time, ensuring timely project delivery.
3. Improves 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, plans, etc. This means if something goes wrong, they can take accountability for their actions instead of passing blames to others.
4. Project Tracing is 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, team workload. This makes it easy for managers to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t, as the project ends.
5. Identify Risks & Manage Them
Risks are a part of project management, so 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 have a pretty good idea of project documentation and its benefits, it’s finally time to learn how to create one for your team.
Here is a step-by-step explanation of the project documentation process, so you can get started on the right foot:
Step 1: Bring all Scattered Documents in One Place
You might have project information scattered across Word docs, PDF files, Excel sheets, and Powerpoint presentations. The first step to creating project documentation is bringing all this information together in a centralized space. Modern project documentation software tools have 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 with your team.
Step 2: Take it Stage by Stage
There are various stages involved in the project management process. From initiation to completion, and everything in between, this process has multiple stages requiring different documents.
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, outlining the basic requirements, etc. 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 project documentation. Teams can quickly go through this section to keep track of the changing client requests and alter their strategies accordingly.
Last is the evaluation stage when the project is executed, 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 managers track the overall project and team performance and identify bottlenecks that posed hurdles in the project. They can then implement the learnings in their next project.
Step 3: Structure the Document & Make it Easy to Search
Project documentation loaded with useful information but lacking a logical structure is counterproductive. Instead of assisting teams with their goals, an unstructured document will make them all confused and indecisive.
Once you have all the information, 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 related to 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 how ideal documentation structure looks like:
Step 4: Let Your Team Review the Document Before Sharing
Project documentation is quite comprehensive, all project details end to end. That’s precisely why all team members should collaboratively work on the document right from the start.
While writing and editing is carried out together by key members of the project team, the review process is no different. As and when articles are created, they should be thoroughly reviewed by editors and subject matter experts before publishing.
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 article is important before taking them live.
Ideal project documentation tools 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 whatever goes in your project documentation is free of errors and inaccuracies.
Step 5: Maintain the Document’s Relevance
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. The best project documentation tools come with built-in reports that help you track document performance, identify knowledge gaps, and fix them on time.
For example, if you want to know which articles are stale and need to be removed or updated, you can track article upvotes and downvotes, total views, and reads. Once you know which articles are not received well by project members, consider improving them. This will help you maintain the quality of your project documentation.
Project Documentation Templates
Writing project documentation can mean spending days doing the initial groundwork.
What if we told you there is a shortcut to the process?
Yes, you heard that right!
Project documentation templates offer a ready-made framework, so you don’t have to do all the hard work. The templates take some of the 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
What should project documentation include?
The answer to this question depends largely on the scale and complexity of the project you are managing. While for large projects, the documentation is quite heavy, 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.
1. 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.
Read More: Creating a Project Budget – A Complete Guide
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 will be taking to keep the progress on the right track.
5. Project Evaluation
Project evaluation is a vital part of project documentation. It brings into 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 Documentation Software for Project Management
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?
Here are some of the top features that an ideal project document collaboration software must have:
- Easy to use with little to no coding required
- Simple to set up without any specialized skills or training
- Ready-to-use documentation templates so that you can start creating documentation right away
- A smart search system that displays context-relevant results
- User management and access control to help teams work in collaboration
- 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
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 write 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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