The Money Files

A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

3 Ways To Procure Without Competition

5 Conditions for Legal Contracts

Ask The Expert: Lauren Maffeo

The Different Types of Project Resources [Video]

5 Common Approaches for Performance Measurement

How much documentation is enough?

Categories: budget, records, transparency

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:

  • The project scope
  • The project size
  • The project’s requirements and how complex they are
  • Any legal requirements
  • Any financial requirements
  • Your company’s documentation standards (although you could flout these if you have good reason)

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?

Posted on: April 15, 2012 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Finance Filing: get your records in shape

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.

A flexible filing system will help you feel more organised and on top of the financial details.  Your files can then easily be archived at the end of the project or handed over to the operational team.

You need:

  • Somewhere to store paper documents:  ring binder with dividers per project or hanging folders.
  • Somewhere to lock away paper documents: filing cabinet, lockable desk drawer etc.
  • A place to store electronic documents, preferably on a networked drive so if your PC or laptop breaks your files are not lost.  This networked drive should not be available to everyone.  Some (if not all) of your financial records will be sensitive, and should not be shared.
  • A method of scanning in paper documents for electronic storage.

Keep these in paper format:

  • Signed copies of contracts including appendices and amendments
  • Any insurance policies you have set up as part of the project
  • Escrow agreements
  • Signed copies of change control notifications to contract terms

Keep these in electronic format:

  • All the above – scanned in and stored electronically with the rest of your project files
  • Service level agreements and other contract appendices – keep paper copies as well.  The electronic records will be good for easy reference
  • Purchase orders
  • Invoices
  • Quotes
  • Contact details for Accounts Receivable, Account Managers and other key financial contacts at your suppliers

Shred these:

  • Paper copies of purchase orders and invoices – your corporate finance team responsible for Accounts Payable will also store copies, so you don’t need these
  • Paper copies of quotes, once you have stored a copy electronically

Be especially careful with these:

  • Financial records relating to project team members.  

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.

Posted on: September 08, 2010 04:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

- Mark Twain