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Project documentation and its importance

Oct 15, 2020

Project management peoples are often asked a common question: what is the importance of project documentation and how can I ensure I’m performing the function right. There’s no doubt that project documentation is a vital part of Project management. The essential two functions of documentation substantiate it: to make sure that project requirements are fulfilled and to establish trace-ability concerning what has been done, who has done it, and when it has been done. 

Documentation must lay the foundation for quality, trace-ability, and history for both the individual document and for the complete project documentation. It is also essential that the documentation is well arranged, easy to read, and adequate.


Project Documentation Uses

Experienced project managers excel at making and following standard templates for their project documents. They reuse successful project plans, business cases, requirement sheets, and project status reports to help them focus on their core competency of managing the project rather than balancing the unmanageable paperwork.

Project management usually follows major phases: Initiation, Planning, Control, and Closure.

Details of Project Documentation Phases

1. Feasibility Report

The purpose of a feasibility report is to investigate and showcase task requirements and to determine whether the project is worthwhile and feasible. Feasibility is verified by five primary factors – technology and system, economic, legal, operational, and schedule. Secondary feasibility factors include market, resource, culture, and financial factors.

2. Project Charter

Project charter is sometimes also known as the project overview statement. A project charter includes high-level planning components of a project, laying the foundation for the project. It acts as an anchor, holding you to the project's objectives and guiding you as a navigator through the milestones. It is formal approval of the project.

3. Requirement Specification

A requirement specification document is a complete description of the system to be developed. It contains all interactions users will have with the system as well as non-functional requirements. 

4. Design Document

The design document showcases the high- or low-level design components of the system. The design document used for high-level design gradually evolves to include low-level design details. This document describes the architectural strategies of the system.

5. Work Plan/Estimate

A work plan sets out the phases, activities, and tasks needed to deliver a project. The timeframes required to deliver a project, as well as resources and milestones, are also shown in a work plan. The work plan is referred to continually throughout the project. Actual progress is reviewed daily against the stated plan and is, therefore, the most critical document to deliver projects successfully.

6. Traceability Matrix

A traceability matrix is a table that traces a requirement to the tests that are needed to verify that the requirement is fulfilled. A useful traceability matrix will provide backward and forward traceability: a requirement can be traced to a test and a test to a requirement.

7. Issue Tracker

An issue tracker manages and maintains a list of issues. It helps add issues, assign them to people, and track the status and current responsibilities. It also helps develop a knowledge base that contains information on resolutions to common problems.

Change Management Document

A change management document is used to capture progress and to record all changes made to a system. This helps in linking unanticipated adverse effects of a change.

1. Test Document

A test document includes a test plan and test cases. A test case is a detailed procedure that thoroughly tests a feature or an aspect of a feature. While a test plan describes what to test, a test case describes how to perform a particular test.

2. Technical Document

The technical document includes product definition and specification, design, manufacturing/development, quality assurance, product/system liability, product presentation, description of features, functions, and interfaces, safe and correct use, service and repair of a technical product as well as its safe disposal.

3. Functional Document

Functional specifications define the inner workings of the proposed system. They do not include the specification of how the system function will be implemented. Instead, this project documentation focuses on what various other agents (such as people or a computer) might observe when interacting with the system.

4. User Manual

User Manual is the standard operating procedure for the system.

5. Transition/Rollout Plan

The rollout plan includes detailed instructions on how to implement the system in an organization. It consists of the schematic planning of the rollout steps and phases. It also describes the training plan for the system.

6. Handover Document

The handover document is a synopsis of the system with a listing of all the deliverables of the system.

7. Contract Closure

Contract closure refers to the process of completing all tasks and terms that are mentioned as deliverable and outstanding upon the initial drafting of the contract. This is only applicable in cases of outsourced projects.

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned in project documentation are used at midpoints of the project and at project completion to catalog significant new learning that have evolved as a result of the project. They are used to build the knowledge base for the organization and to establish a history of best and worse practices in project implementation and customer relation.

Proper project documentation is undoubtedly a mandatory element in managing projects, but it is also extremely useful in keeping projects moving at a speedy pace, ensuring all stakeholders are as informed as possible, and helping the organization make better improvements in future projects. We hope this information was useful for you and wish you good luck in your PMP certification journey.

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