How much documentation is enough?
This month, the discussion topic here at Gantthead is stakeholders. Project stakeholders need documents – but how do you know how much documentation is enough? Unfortunately, the answer is always, “It depends.”
The amount of documentation stakeholders need to feel comfortable depends on:
According to Tom Kendrick in his book, 101 Project Management Problems and How to Solve Them, there are three types of project management document:
Definition documents: these define the project so include things like the project charter, requirements catalogues and organisation charts. Stakeholder management/engagement grids and analyses also fit in here. Definition documents might sound static, but they actually need updating regularly as things will always change.
Planning documents: these help the project team plan the work. They include the plan (of course), risk register, the project schedule, and any other project-specific sub-plans like a communications plan.
Status documents: these are the documents that stakeholders are generally most interested in. While they should be interested in the requirements and the risk log, you’ll find that the majority of stakeholders only really want to know how things are going and what they have to do next. Status documents include the things you would expect like regular reports, the issues log and follow up actions, the change log and other regular, non-standard documents that discuss status like meeting minutes.
Where does your project budget fit in all of this? Well, it’s partly a definition document: as part of the project initiation activity you would have defined the budget in the project business case or initiation document. But it’s also a status document: the real-time changes in the budget and tracking how much you are spending is very much related to project status.
You may find that it is easier to have two versions of the project budget: one definitive, signed off, formal version of the budget that never changes and acts as a reference point (your project budget baseline) and another as a living document that you update for quarterly forecasts and use to record actual spend. Personally I spend much more time on my living document than I do going back to the original, but I know that at the end of the project I will be expected to justify any changes to budget in the post-implementation review, so it’s important to still have those figures unchanged, with details about the project assumptions that helped shape them as no doubt by the end of the project I will have forgotten why the budget was set up that way.
Those two documents are ‘enough’ for my project budget. I can pull extracts or summary figures for my status reports, and that satisfies my stakeholders. How do you manage your project documentation, and do you find yourself doing just enough, or producing documents that no one ever looks at again?
The holidays are over and we’re into the final stretch before the milestone of year end. This is a great time to get your project financial records in shape and set up systems to help you breeze through the end of year demands from your corporate finance people. Today I’m looking at filing systems.
If your project team members work for you, you’ll probably already have visibility of their salaries, expenses and bonus arrangements. Don’t lump all this in with your ‘project’ records. If the project team works for someone else who has asked for your input to their performance review to award a bonus, or you are responsible for their expenses or timesheets, don’t store this with the project records either. Create a separate, private, ‘Personnel’ filing system for this type of sensitive record.