How many times have you heard yourself saying, “Do I really need to write all of that down?” while working on a technical project. Understandably, project documentation is a mammoth like task for any project manager. In fact, more often than not, it is seen as completely unnecessary, and a waste of time. “I’ll remember that!” is one of the top excuses we tell ourselves when we’re trying to get away from project documentation. However, if you study any accomplished project manager, impeccable documentation would always be on top of their priorities. Because, not only managing a technical project is important, ensuring proper records in the form of project documentation is of equal importance.
Before moving to answering the question at hand, ‘if project documentation is important’ let’s have a look at what it really means. Simply put, project documentation is a written record of all the vital information about a project, which offers a clear picture of what it is all about to anyone who reads the document. Moving on, let’s have a look at some of the advantages of project documentation-
Farewell to Losing Information
It goes without saying that the professional life of a project manager is very busy as he/ she juggles between different tasks and liaisons with different stakeholders. It is only human if the person in question misses out a detail or two of a project. While it is simply a human error, this lost information can have serious consequences to the outcome of the project, putting the manager’s job at risk. Enter, project documentation. By accounting for each and every part of the project in a written format, project managers can steer away from the fear of losing information.
Project documentation can help all the involved stakeholders in getting access to all the relevant information without the chances of it being lost in someone’s memory. It importance becomes even more important when the project changes hands due to any issues. Knowledge transfer to the next manager verbally can cause serious loss of information. However, if information travels via a written document, it minimizes the loss of information. Additionally, it protects the project from falling prey to miscommunication and misunderstanding between the two parties.
Aligning Business Requirements and Technical Requirements
One of the major tasks of a project manager is to understand the business requirements from the clients and convert them to technical requirements for developers to work on. Project document plays a very important role in assisting the project manager with aligning the business requirements with technical requirements and maintain a record of the same.
Without proper documentation, a project manager might wonder at the end of one sprint, “This looks good, but what is the business application of this code”? Proper documentation helps managers escape this awkward situation by giving a proper record of the business application of every technical task that developers undertake. Additionally, documenting the business requirements helps understanding the project from an end user’s perspective. This can then be handed over to the technical team for better output. Therefore, project documentation helps the manager effectively coordinate between the client and the developers.
Track Changes and Development
The volatile and uncertain world that we live in requires changes to the project every other day. Project documentation assists project managers in effectively capturing all the new information and requirements that come their way. Additionally, written records can also help in understanding what changes are being made and what will be their consequences. Documentation also facilitates that any changes that need to be made are raised properly and undergo formal approval. Thus, a project document can help in building credibility. You can have written proof of who introduced the change and what the larger impact has been. In the absence of documented proof, the entire onus of the changes falls upon the project manager, leading to mistrust and doubt in capability.
Finally, project documentation also helps ensure that the changes do not expand the scope of the project beyond the threshold. While all changes look small in silos, when put together, they might change the entire face of the project. This can also significantly impact the budget and resource allocations. Documenting every change can help project managers understand its impact on resources and decide whether the benefits of the change outweigh the costs.
Ensure Timely Delivery
What is even the point of taking up a project if you cannot ensure timely delivery? Well, project documentation helps you in achieving this end. Project scheduling is an important benefit that project managers derive out of project documentation. They break the entire project into phases and create a timeline around it. A written growth trajectory helps them map the assumed progress with the actual one to understand and identify delays, if any. It is of great importance to check project progress and alter the plan, if needed. Since being on time is one of the top requirements for a project manager, tracking progress at every step can go a long way in achieving this goal.
It is true that one can track progress even without a written document. However, a written document helps compare the scheduled and real time progress to understand which phase has had most delay. Invariably, it makes individuals working on the project more accountable.
Major Project Documentation Types
Now that we understand what project documentation is all about and what makes it so important, let’s take a sneak peek into some of the major project documents-
A project charter can be seen as a blueprint for a project before its formal inception. It contains a statement of scope, objectives and the project stakeholders. It is a document to ensure that the needs of the client are the same as the project manager’s understanding.
The RACI matrix can simply be understood as a responsibility assignment matrix. It clearly mentions all the tasks for the project and assigns relevant participants for each action item. Not only does it state who is responsible for which task, it also illustrates who should be consulted in case of any doubt.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
It is technically defined as “deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team”. The objective is to breakdown the complex project into tasks which are easily understandable, measurable and defined.
Change Request Management
Change request management simply refers to the formal process of raising a particular change in the project and its acceptance. It generally comes from the client side, as an addition or change to the project outcome or deliverables.
A project schedule is like a timeline of the entire project. It contains all the important milestones, activities and deliverables with the start and end dates.
Project Status Report
Project status report is an important document to capture the progress of the project. It summarizes the project’s overall progress and compares it to the projected plan.
The Bottom Line
As it is evident, project documentation is an essential part of any project. Right from its inception to completion and feedback, having a written document can help project managers deliver state of the art projects, within time and budget. If you want a technical project manager to document your project effectively, reach out to us at Recro, today!