Project Management

Determining the Appropriate Level of Formal Documentation with Project Sizing

Mike has more than 12 years of project management experience spanning a variety of industries. He has acted as a consultant for federal, state and local government agencies; set up a PMO and managed strategic projects for a major automotive company in Australia; and currently is a Senior Project Manager in the Northern Colorado financial industry. Mike is PMP certified, a veteran of the USAF and has an MBA in finance and accounting.

Do you ever wonder how far to go with formal documentation on a given project? PMBOK gives us an extensive set for project management standards from which to draw, but we don’t always choose to apply the full extent of these standards to every project, nor would it be appropriate to do so.

Early in my journey as a PM, I had a tendency to go to one extreme or the other: getting burned from not being formal enough with the documentation or (especially right after I became a certified PMP) trying to apply every standard and tool in the book. To formalize the process of assigning project formality (ironic, isn’t it?), our PMO worked up a process and tool to do just that; it was very similar to the Project Sizing Template. So what do I mean by project sizing, and how does one go about it?

The purpose of Project Sizing Analysis is to determine the relative size of a project in terms of complexity or stakeholder impact. Using that assessment, the appropriate level of formality is determined in regard to structure and tools employed. Keep in mind that with the variations in organizations, PMOs, personalities, and project scopes, it is as much art as science. That is one reason it may feel a little “squishy”, especially to the less experienced PM.

Why not just err on the side of caution and make everything formal and rigid? Because the reality is …


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