Project Documentation: 5 Documents Your Project Shouldn’t Live Without

A well-managed project will rely on key documentation that supports its day-to-day running, as well as providing stakeholders with visibility of the project’s status at all times. The amount of documentation required on a project differs depending upon the scale and complexity, but there are several standard documents which support effective delivery. Some of these documents are dynamic and will be updated by the Project Manager or PMO (Project Management Office) on a regular basis as the project evolves, while others are used as key reference documents, providing scope and direction on a higher-level from the outset.

Which documents are vital to delivering your project? Below we have outlined the purpose of 5 common documents that you are likely to find at varying stages of a project:

Business Case

This is arguably the most important document for the project which is created before the project formally starts. The Business Case seeks to outline the reasons for undertaking the project, expected costs, risks associated with the project, and the expected benefits and savings. While it will be used most critically at the very start of a project, it is not a static document and should be referred to throughout the project to ensure continued justification and benchmark current progress against the stated aims.

Project Charter

The Project Charter is often a short, formal document that builds upon the Business Case by detailing why the need for the project has arisen, as well as an explanation of what the project needs to achieve. It will include more information around which stakeholders are to be involved and will likely be impacted by the project, as well as defining expectations for quality and acceptance criteria.

Project Initiation Document (PID)

After sign-off of the business case and approval of the project charter to proceed by the business, a Project Initiation Document is crafted. The PID delves deeper into the project than the initial documentation and will include sections on risk management, project team structure, communications strategy and an initial project plan. A vital part of this document is the identification of the scope of the project. Understanding what the project is designed to do and as a result, what is ‘out of scope’ is very important, and will likely be referred back to throughout the project. The PID ensures that there is a sound basis to proceed with the work before investing time, effort and money to it.

Project Plan

A detailed and well-managed project plan is critical if projects are to be delivered on time and within budget. The management of a project plan can seem straightforward – keeping oversight of tasks, dates, and owners to ensure that there is no slippage. Unfortunately, they are one of the hardest documents to manage. Projects are constantly evolving, with elements changing as the project progresses, and issues arising that may not have been identified when the plan was devised. The project plan as it appeared at the project’s initiation is almost certainly going to be different from the project plan half-way through a project. It is the project manager’s responsibility to own, update and communicate the plan with the stakeholders involved, providing clear visibility of its status, and keeping everyone informed throughout its life-cycle.

RAID Log

A RAID log is a document that contains all the risks, actions, issues, and decisions related to the project and is likely to be updated on a daily basis to ensure that control of the project is maintained. It is a governance tool that is used to provide a single view of the key aspects which can influence the project. Projects are often multi-faceted and complex, therefore the ability to monitor and track these four key elements is crucial to its success and delivery.

All of these documents are essential for successful project management, with purposes ranging from keeping stakeholders informed of the project’s progress, recording risks and actions taken, detailing the purpose of the project, and outlining expected costs and benefits. Together, they have the potential to make or break your project and should be regularly maintained, reviewed, and revised to ensure the maximum success of your project.

For more information on project management, download our free Little Book of Project Management or contact Huw Jones huwj@ninefeettall.com.

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