Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Standard Project Documentation

Is there such a things as Standard Project Documentation. I know different methodologies state that there should be x, y and z, but is there any standard format to these? … and should there be?

Most companies have a communications department, which designs templates and colour schemes for corporate literature, usually limited to external communications.  I have worked with guidelines for logos, colour schemes and fonts, but usually this has been for external documentation and website designs.

The Project Management Office has a role to perform in terms of providing some standard documentation, but I have found this is limited to Report formats and PowerPoint presentations.  For the last two corporations I have worked in, both of which have a PMO, there has not been any standard documentation for other project documents.  

I am a believer in simplification.  I feel that standard formatted documentation should be available and reused, such as reporting, RAID and Project Documents.  I would go one stage further and ensure that there is a library of standard documentation for all of my projects.  I do not just mean that there should be a font, colour scheme and logo, but I feel the content should be "standardised".  I feel that a new Project Manager should be able to pick up a template and have a baseline for their documentation.  For example, the Test Strategy should have a number of sub topics that would help the Project Managers ensure that all of the required information is captured, then the Stakeholders would read and understand each test Strategy and be able to compare on a Project by Project basis.

If a Senior Stakeholder is running many projects, it would be beneficial for them to understand the documentation they can expect and the content and purpose of each of these documents.  A further example could be for the Project Charter, which should have a standard format and content for all project, no matter how large or small.  The topics of content of the documents for every project will be the same for this document, however the content and length may be different.  

A good example of other standard documents would be the Risk Register.  In all of the companies I have worked for recently, there has not been a definitive standard for the RAID log.  This document is one of the most important, most used and updated documents in the Project Manager's Library. 
I am an ex-"Lotus Notes Man" and I still run my life with a variety of Lotus Notes tools, such as my business accounts and CRM.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to build a "Project Management" toolkit in Notes, which has included Actions, a RAID Log, a Project Document Log and a Weekly Report, which is automatically fed by the other sections.  This allows me to export the data as often as I like into a standard format, which can then be passed to the Project Teams and Stakeholders.  This weekly report highlights the current RAG status for all of the major milestone, the upcoming milestone and details the work completed and planned over the last and next weeks.  In addition, the top 5 Issues and Risks are displayed.  All of this in in a single sheet in Excel and can be printed to PDF as a summary report.  The report then contains two additional tabs, which contain all of the outstanding Actions and the full RAID of open items.  This report becomes a "snapshot" of the current Project Status and is shared with Stakeholders on a Friday afternoon.

The Project Plan document, not the Gantt Chart, but the Project Plan, is another important document of the Project.  It should capture the methodology of the entire project process from Design, through Build, Testing and Implementation into BAU.  Each strategy for delivery should be included, as well as the constraints and processes for change.  This document is the single place for any stakeholder to understand the project from end to end.  I have not seen a "Template" for this document, but I have a personal template that I have used in a number of corporations, which often has become the new standard for the PMO to share with other Project Managers.

I feel every corporation, especially one with a PMO, should have a definitive set of standard documents and all Projects should use them.  I have my own standard documents, which I happily introduce to any Project I am working on.

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