The Ultimate Guide about How to Manage Project Documentation
November 23, 2023
If creating and managing projects is a fundamental part of your company’s operations, you’ll already know how important it is to establish a dependable process that helps you to repeat your successes and minimizes your failures.
A solid project documentation process is the cornerstone of successful new projects. It promotes a more organized and systematic way of thinking, and establishes a paper trial, to track your projects’ progress.
What Is Project Documentation?
Project documentation is the implementation of a streamlined, efficient, and uniform process for producing the key documents that are required to implement a new project successfully. For example, these documents might include, business cases, project status reports, and project requirement sheets.
In addition, the project documentation process outlines a clear approach for organizing these essential project documents. This uniform, considered approach means that these key documents will be easy for your whole team to use (and find!) – ensuring that the creation of your new project goes without a hitch.
By adhering to these guidelines, you will be able to establish complete traceability of the documents in your workflow. Beyond this, the process of project documentation also involves the outlining of a clear and accessible layout, format, and level of written content.
Normally a standardized process of project documentation is put in place by the project manager (to manage the documentation for their particular project effectively), or by a team leader (to cover any documentation that is being created to complete a task).
In general project documentation is a vital standardized organizational technique that your entire team should be practising. It is also an essential tool for ensuring that your business consistently produces successful projects.
Why Is Project Documentation Important for Managing Your Marketing Project?
It sounds like a good piece of organizational practice to consider, right? But, you might be wondering how project documentation actually benefits your project, beyond the establishment of a nicely governed workflow.
We’re here to shed some light on the answer and give you an insight into all of the key plus points that make project documentation an essential project management tool.
Implementing a project documentation process for your marketing projects will:
Create more visibility
The process gives you complete traceability of your entire workflow, meaning you can immediately see which tasks need to be done, when and by whom.
Ensure that the project requirements are fulfilled
Project documentation lets you gauge your project’s progress immediately. You can easily track whether your project is heading in the right direction, as the documentation will help you to define (and stick to) its requirements, while working on the project.
Evaluate the project once it has finished
Once the project has finished, the closure part of the project documentation process guides project managers through an evaluation of how the team approached this particular project. It also gives contributors a chance to share their feedback.
These elements of documentation encourage you to consider thoroughly what you learned from the task. This will highlight your strengths and weaknesses alike, so that you grow your creation process, ready for your next project.
If you’re looking to improve the way that you manage your team, you can find out more about strong project management templates in our dedicated blog post.
What Are the Benefits Of Project Documentation?
For those more picky hard-to-please managerial types, who are still to be swayed, we’ve got even more project documentation benefits to tell you about. Below, we’ve outlined the most important team-wide perks that implementing a strong project documentation process brings.
Sets and defines your project goals
Project documentation guides you towards setting and defining clear goals, while ensuring that everyone involved (the project manager and the stakeholders) has the same expectations of the project. This process requires you to question the validity of each document that is being created.
In the project initiation step, you create the Project Business Case and the Project Charter document, which enable you to define both your project’s goals and the resources that are required to make it happen.
Establishing these pieces of documentation from the get-go, means you’ll have clarity about the project’s core aims and objectives. This in turn means that, with each step you take, your team is sure that they are actively working towards achieving these project goals, without exceeding the project’s allocated resources.
Supports the project planning stage
Each document has a clear function and a role to play within project documentation. Project managers use them to create very detailed Work Breakdown Structures which, in turn, enable them to draft realistic and achievable schedules.
Each document that the project manager creates supports the planning process, which speeds up and optimizes the execution of the project as a whole.
If this is a stage where you require some further assistance, you can read about more great project plan templates on our blog.
Gives a clear overview of the project
Because all of these documents are constantly kept up-to-date, all of the stakeholders involved in the creation process are always aware of the project’s current status.
This method is especially useful for project managers who are working with remote teams. An ability to manage and organize a team is just one of the key skills that a marketing project manager needs to have. Project documentation gives those managers an easy yet effective way to get a quick status update on a project, which has multiple team members contributing to it.
Manages risks and issues
The project manager will create a RAID document, as part of the project documentation process.. This will prepare them for any possible risks or issues, and so they will be well-equipped to deal with them, should they crop up.
For example, a strong project documentation process requires the creation of a feasibility report. This outlines the benefits of the project and its likelihood of success; thus enabling the project manager to mitigate any potential risks, for example, regarding the financial success of the project.
Makes the project traceable
As we mentioned earlier, the project documentation process gives you a thorough, complete knowledge of the roles and deadlines governing the workload of each team member. This ability forms a key part of the lessons learned register, by making the project fully traceable and transparent. At the end of the project, the project manager can evaluate what worked well, and what aspects need improvement.
Key Project Documents with Project Documentation Examples
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. In this section, we’ll show you which documents will need to be created, in each phase of the project process.
These documents cover a variety of different topics, that ensure the steady progression of the project at each step.
Below, you’ll find a project management document list that outlines all of the key project documents that are required for thorough project management. This way, you’ll be able to guarantee that your team’s documentation is up to speed.
1. Project Initiation
This phase occurs at an organizational level, where it meets a company-wide need. The project is proposed, outlined, approved and receives the required funding.
Project Business Case
This step requires project managers to create a series of pre-set documents that take them through the project process in a step-by-step set flow, from start to finish. This usually starts with the project business case document, which is a key part of the project initiation step.
The business case document should state how much capital is required to complete the project and will provide a detailed breakdown of how it will be spent. It should also make a convincing case of why the idea is a strong project that is worth investing capital into.
Another key piece of documentation in the initiation step of the process is the project charter document. Moving on from the financial side of this new project, this document should contain information that includes an outline description of the proposed project and the key roles and responsibilities of the individuals involved.
In essence, it’s a document that’s designed to outline every aspect of the project in full. It ensures that the entire team has total clarity regarding the project’s objectives, requirements, elements, aims, and goals.
2. Project Planning
Now that the initiation phase has been completed, we can move on to the planning of the project. In this phase, the project manager will create a detailed plan of the best way to undertake the project.
Work Breakdown Structure
In order to ensure that the project starts as it means to go on, the planning phase needs to be organized, clear, and thoroughly detailed.
The work breakdown structure document will contain information that is vital to enabling team members understand what the project involves, in a way that is readily understandable, approachable, and manageable. Essentially, it breaks down the project’s workload into its constituent components and stages.
The next document, the requirement specification, is key to the planning stage of the project process. This differs from the work breakdown structure, as it focuses on outlining a separate element of the project, but one that is equally necessary for its success.
This document requires you to detail methodically which requirements the project must meet, in order to achieve its proposed objectives, successfully. After all, these objectives are the reason that capital is being invested in this project, so it is vital to know how you plan to reach them.
Risk and Issue Log
The risk and issues log (RAID= risks, actions, issues, decisions) is the next vital step that is required, in the planning phase of the project documentation.
Use the content of this document to consider the potential project risks involved, and to record the best ways that you can mitigate them, as a team. By putting these risk management measures in place, at this early stage, you will ensure that your team adopts the best practices. You’re also, guaranteeing that their time is well spent, and avoiding any (potentially costly) mistakes throughout the process.
Change Request Management Document
The final document you’ll need for the planning step of the process is the change request management document. You’ll use this document to record the specific details of any project changes that your team requests, so they can be smoothly dealt with.
Write all the details of the change in this document, including exactly what must be changed, how it might alter any pre-existing plans for your project (for example its budget, or its timeline) and how you plan to mitigate the disruption that the change could cause to the project creation process.
3. Project Execution
In the execution phase, the team that has been assigned the task of creating the project can go about delivering those requirements.
Project Communication Plan
Now we’re really getting into the thick of it. In the execution stage (and also throughout the whole project), it’s vital that your team continues to communicate effectively. This is where the project communication plan comes in.
This document establishes clear guidelines for communication between the project’s stakeholders. This will cover a variety of factors, such as what, when, and how information should be shared across your team. It will also detail who the infor should be shared with, and outline who has the responsibility to share this information.
The next step of the project’s execution phase requires you to create a clear and detailed project timeline, which covers all of the important checkpoints and milestones for this project. The timeline should also clearly indicate which team member is responsible for which task and the deadline for when their work must be submitted.
The project timeline document also allows the project manager to keep tabs on the workflow, to ensure that no individual is holding up the process, by being behind on their deadline.
This document ensures that deadlines are established for the different project components; thus ensuring the steady progression of the project. By outlining these key deliverables in a highly organized fashion, you will motivate your team to complete these elements, while adhering to all of your deadlines.
4. Monitoring & Controlling the Project
In the monitoring and controlling phase, the project manager oversees the process of creating the project. They will use documentation, such as a communication plan and a project timeline, to ensure that the project work is being implemented according to the plan.
5. Project Closure
For this final project phase, the project’s invested parties will officially close the project. This phase comprises all the steps that need to be taken, before the project can formally be deemed to be finished.
Project Closure Sheet
Once the project has been finalised, and before the celebrations start, you need to formally round things off by moving into the closure phase of the project documentation process. This step requires the creation of a project closure sheet.
This document is used as written confirmation that all the invested parties (particularly if, for example, you are working with external companies such as marketing agencies) approved the completed project. Effectively, they are agreeing that the project has been kept on track and that the expectations of all of its stakeholders have been met.
Lessons Learned Register
To conclude the project process, you’ll need to create a lessons learned register. This document sets out what you have learned from the project, as a team. It gives everyone an opportunity to put forward formal suggestions for what you might do differently next time.
This is a key piece of the documentation process, as it ensures that your team uses this experience to their advantage (and spins a positive on any mistakes that may have been made), to ensure their continued growth and success in future projects.
Project Documentation Templates
At first, it might seem a rather daunting prospect to create this entire bank of documentation, from the ground up.
Before you hit the ‘New Document’ button, we’ve put together a collection of links to online project documentation templates. These will provide you with strong templates for all of the key project documents that you’ll need to create. They’ll help you get your new project documentation process up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Filestage also has a free online template for a project charter template. This document can be used throughout the project creation process, as a guideline and reference point, which your whole team regularly refers back to. So, it’s vital that you get it right.
Work Breakdown Document Template
Smartsheet has created a work breakdown document template that gives you a reliable, easy-to-use starting point, from where you can create a document that exactly covers all of your project’s unique requirements.
Project Smart has created a risk and issue log template that ensures that you have not only covered all of the details required for any risks and issues involved in your project but that you have outlined these in a clear, efficient manner.
Template for Request Management Document
Filestage offers a free downloadable change request form and in addition a comprehensive guide about how to handle project change requests effectively. If you need more information regarding this specific document you should definitely check out this blog article.
Communication Plan Template
Keep your team’s communication on track with this useful Communication Plan template from Filestage.
Project Timeline Template
Filestage has created a free online project timeline template. This Google sheet template for project managers lays out all of your project’s key deadlines as well as vital pieces of information, in an organized, efficient, and user-friendly format.
Project Closure Sheet Template
This online project sign-off sheet, created by Filestage, is available to download for free. It has a great project documentation format, which ensures that all of your key confirmation points are included.
Lessons Learned Register Template
The Project Management Qualification website has provided an online lessons learned register template. It acts as a handy guide for what you should include in this document and the best way for you to display that information.
How to Manage the Project Documentation Process
Once you’ve got all the tools you need, to get this process off the ground, and to ensure the ongoing success of the process, you’ll need to manage the implementation of these documents, so you can guarantee they’re used correctly and consistently by your entire team.
In this section, we’ll delve into a further breakdown of the process – in the form of four handy tips – to help you effectively manage each step of the project documentation process.
1. Create the documents in advance
Keep on top of the documentation throughout the project creation process. You should keep a close eye on where your project is within the process, and ensure that the relevant documents are ready well in advance.
These documents can be written using a variety of different tools, e.g. Word, Excel, Google docs or sheets, PowerPoint, etc. Choose the best document type to suit the particular process. For example, the risk and issue log is best laid out in a table, so Excel would be the best tool for the job.
By preparing these documents in advance, you don’t have to rush the process. It’s worth investing your time, to be organized here. Leave yourself plenty of space to create the documents, so you ensure that they are reliable, thorough, and of a high standard.
2. Make documentation maintenance an ongoing process
Maintain and update the documents throughout the duration of the project. You’ll ensure that this is done consistently by setting yourself regular reminders to update the documents that you are currently working on.
Otherwise, if you and your team agree on a fundamental change in the project, ensure that all of the documentation, across the board – past, present, and future use alike – is updated accordingly.
3. Share, review and approve the documents
Use the document templates that you have created as flexible documents that are designed to meet the specific requirements of this particular project. One way to do this is by sharing, reviewing, and approving the documents with your team, during and after the project has been closed.
Ensure that you accommodate the shifting needs, agreements, and requirements of your evolving project, and adapt the documentation accordingly, so that it best suits your team and the project at hand.
Filestage is a fantastic tool that will help you achieve a solid document review and approval process. It provides an efficient collaborative platform, which your entire team can use to review and share their feedback on these pieces of documentation.
4. Save and archive the documents
After finishing the project, save the documents and archive them, so that you can use them as a detailed, formal reference point for this particular project, should you ever need it. Plus, you’ll be ready when your next project comes in. You can go back and consult a document from this task and, if needed, replicate the phrasing or layout that you used successfully, before.
Five Tools to Use for Your Project Documentation
So, now that you’re all set and ready to get your project documentation up and running, this is the perfect time to read up on the wide range of helpful online tools that are out there. We’re well-versed in the best project management tools available, so you can trust us to recommend a tool that will get the job done quickly and efficiently, across the board.
No matter which tool you’re looking for, we can also recommend a wide range of intelligent creative project management software solutions.
Filestage is software that’s specialized in efficient centralized collaboration and version control. This easy-to-use, all-in-one review and approval platform lets users upload and share different file types, such as Word documents, presentations, Excel sheets or images and videos.
You can invite various project members to give their feedback on new or updated documents. Features such as due dates mean you can ensure that approvals are finished in time and that you stick to your overall project deadline.
This tool can be used within your project documentation process to review and approve all of your key documents and project deliverables in one single place.
Workzone is all about making project management an effortless process. This online software solution for project documentation provides a sophisticated yet user-friendly option, which is designed to suit the requirements of most medium-sized teams.
In addition to its document storage and sharing functionality, Workzone enables users to manage the influx of the various documents that come in from different individual contributors across the team, letting you easily track the progress of this workflow against the deadlines that you put in place.
TeamGantt is a project-documentation software solution that is remarkably visually led. This tool is designed to assist your project planning and management processes through an intuitive chart-based system.
TeamGantt provides a dependable form of support for the creation of a variety of important documents, such as the timeframe for your work plan, and stores these essential files in one easy-to-locate, centralized location.
Smartsheet offers users a good, dynamic software solution that acts as a dependable form of support throughout your entire project documentation process. It provides a detailed, thorough breakdown of your entire team’s efforts.
The software also integrates with a host of different enterprise tools and apps, allowing your team full flexibility and providing the perfect option for a seamless transition to the platform.
The software that ActiveCollab provides creates a workspace that keeps users well-informed about the key deadlines, requirements, and incomplete to-dos, for the project that they’re collaborating on. It prioritizes clarity and ease of use, ensuring that everyone involved in the project knows exactly what’s next on the agenda.
These capabilities make ActiveCollab the ideal software to create checkpoints and milestones. That way, you can ensure that deadlines and key progress measures are put in place, while successfully motivating the team – pulling people together for a united team effort while keeping everything on time.
So, if you aspire to achieve a level of organization for your marketing projects that will be the envy of your company’s teams, we hope we’ve shown you just how much you can gain by establishing a clear project documentation process.
This nifty system of streamlined, traceable, and efficient documentation will ensure that the management of every one of your projects goes off without a hitch. Tick all the boxes, meet every deadline, keep tabs on your team’s efforts, and create consistently top-notch content – it’s all in the organization.
Content Manager at Filestage. A big fan of clear and fast feedback. Enjoys reading and traveling.