Tips and Tricks from the Pros: A Guide to Comprehensive Project Management Documentation
In my many years working in IT Program and Project Management, my favorite part of the work is serving as the narrator of the project delivery story. When managing large programs, I ask the project managers to “tell the story” of their project versus “report the status”. When you report status, you take a “one-size-fits-all” approach instead of considering your audience and what they need to know at each point in the journey. Each perspective told through a team member’s project management story is key in driving understanding and alignment, whether you’re talking to an executive or a mid-level team member.
Just like in creative writing, there are tools you can use to effectively document your project’s current status, the latest progress, and the rationale behind key decisions. For effective project management, you must employ the skill or “art” of communication. At Kenway, our Program and Project Management methodology emphasizes communicating swiftly and effectively across all channels regardless of whether the news is good or bad. Kenway leverages these best-practice tools to support and document the overall project story in order to drive successful delivery.
- Setting the Stage: Whether you are developing a Project Charter that summarizes the objective of a project or determining the Minimum Viable Product for an Agile development effort, you need clear documentation on the objective of the project and the success criteria. After all, a novelist who writes a book no one can follow hasn’t done a good job. Formalizing the scope is not just a deliverable to check off the list, but is also a critical step to be discussed to ensure understanding by the entire audience before proceeding. After alignment, to ensure no one forgets the goal of the project, creating a one-pager to reiterate the purpose of each step of the journey is crucial.
- Planning: Once you have your purpose, you will need to spend time creating a project plan for how you will achieve the project objectives. While an author may have full autonomy in how they plan a narrative, Project Managers must facilitate others to build a plan that is feasible to execute. Just as when you start a new book and guess where the story is taking you, you start a project with certain assumptions. In Agile, the goal is to plan shorter increments (sprints) so that as more is understood, you can pivot your approach. No matter the methodology, the audience needs to know how the project will get to the objective in a clear way. Communicate what is known and what is unknown; the audience needs to know where we are now (committed) and how we are reaching the next step (target).
- Foreshadowing: When I am reading a book, there are times where I will get this chill up my spine – this gut feeling that says, “I think I know what may happen here.” In a project, similarly, a team member may identify a risk that may disrupt the current project plan. Although for a project, unlike a book, you don’t just “sit and wait”, you mitigate the risk by trying to figure out what can be done now so the risk doesn’t become an issue later. The better you mitigate risk, the closer aligned you will stay to your target plan. The more that risks become issues, the longer it will take to get where you are going.
- Character Development: As the project moves forward, especially those longer in duration, building relationships and understanding each person of your audience becomes very important in how you communicate. As you read a novel and start to feel connected to characters like you know them, you need to understand the perspectives of the team members and those sponsoring the project. Ask them how they like to receive information, and listen to their input and ideas. The more knowledge you gain on the project characters and on how they work best, the more effective you will be able to manage the communication of information. Remember you are the narrator, and you need to ensure the voices are heard.
- Plot Twists: In most stories, you will face a plot twist. For a project, this surprise can mean time and money, so you need to prevent the drama! There are clear tools to manage these moments using issue management and change control. If something happens that delays a date on the critical path, then you need to quickly help the team drive to resolution to minimize the impact. Once the impact is known or realized, you must clearly communicate a change control, so everyone knows the impact to the original plan. In communicating and gaining sign-off from project sponsorship, the impact is accepted and the plan baseline is reset. It may take longer or take more money, but that is part of the journey which is never perfect.
- The Conclusion: As you near the end of the book or project, the anticipation is growing for getting to the finish line and everyone is feeling the fatigue of the road traveled. Keep the team focused by increasing the frequency of communication on progress from weekly to daily to ensure each step is staying on track. Moving to daily stand-up meetings to ensure everyone stays on the same page also swiftly lets leadership know where issues may cause delays, keeping everyone aligned through the final strides into the finish line tape.
- Acknowledgments: When you finish that last sentence of a book, you feel that satisfaction and turn the page to see all the references and acknowledgments. On a project, sometimes the day after a project deploys can be the hardest. You need to ensure that everything is working as planned and any production issues are urgently addressed to minimize impacts. While everyone is happy to have gotten to the delivery date, the journey may not be over, and it is important to reflect on the journey and acknowledge the contribution of each person who helped achieve the goal.
When the journey is managed and narrated well, the project will be a success. However, if the audience is confused and frustrated about what is happening in the story, they may just stop reading and switch to a different book. I have read many books and have managed many projects and always learn from the story to help me in my life and work. I look forward to the next project journey and its first chapter.
Let Kenway help you navigate the intricacies of project documentation and management, allowing you to narrate and manage the journey of your next program or project with ease. Connect with us to learn more – we can’t wait to hear from you.
FAQs About Project Management
What is project management documentation?
Documentation for project management involves the various documents and records that are created and maintained throughout the life cycle of a project. These documents are vital to the understanding of a project and give a clear account of the project’s objectives, scope, timelines, budgets, risks, and stakeholders. This project documentation can also provide a record of the project’s progress, decisions, and outcomes. Some examples of documentation for project management include –
- Project plan: This document outlines the project’s tasks, timelines, budgets, and resource requirements.
- Risk management plan: This document identifies potential risks to the project and outlines strategies to mitigate them.
- Change management plan: This document outlines the process for managing changes to the project scope, timelines, or budgets.
- Status reports: These documents provide regular updates on the project’s progress, including completed tasks, upcoming tasks, and any issues or risks.
- Performance reports: These documents show the project’s progress and performance in terms of meeting objectives, timelines, and budgets.
Why is project documentation important?
Project documentation ensures that all team members are aligned and working towards the same goal. Documentation is crucial to a project’s success for a variety of reasons, including the below:
- Communication: Project documentation can provide a way to communicate important information to all team members, stakeholders, and clients, easily and without risk of missing any plotlines in the overall story.
- Tracking Progress: Project documentation enables the project manager(s) to track the progress of the project and identify any issues or risks that need to be addressed. It also allows the team to measure the project’s performance against established goals, deadlines, and budgets.
- Accountability: Project documentation provides a record of the project’s decisions, actions, and outcomes, among other aspects. This can be used to hold team members and stakeholders accountable for their part in the project.
- Reference: Project documentation can serve as a reference for future projects and can provide valuable lessons learned to avoid repeat mistakes and shorten the learning curve when taking on similar projects.
- Compliance: Certain industries have specific regulations and compliance requirements that need to be fulfilled. Project documentation can help organizations meet these requirements with confidence.