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Topics: Business Analysis/Requirements Management, PMO, Strategy
How quickly do you write your project documentation?

I'm wondering if anyone shares my approach to writing project documentation and in a way running a project. My documentation is directly from the conceptualization of the project in my mind and there's been times where I've written a BRD, Test Strategy, or Implementation documentation in 10 maybe 15 minutes because it's just distilling a more complicated representation into a written organizational structure.

Does documentation define the project and should be considered the end all and be all of sucess?

Or is the project defined from one's complete understanding and representation of the structure, strategy, and approach in the mind, with documentation as the result of understanding, not the antecedent of it?

I ask this as complaints about Project Management work is often directly related the task of documentation, especially from outsiders. I'm often told, "You must hate your job with all the documentation" and I always responds, "I Love my work and I run the documentation, it doesn't run me or my project (strictly)." I'm just seeking a consensus/opinion.

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It takes me 10-15 minutes just to load the application to write the project plan, so you are in front of me. No, project documentation is not the be all and end all of project success. Yes, the project is partly defined by it's "signed" documentation. But you can have crappy documentation and successful projects, yet Shakespearean documentation and projects that are resounding failures. I love documentation also, but the true success of a project is delivering what we said we would deliver, with the highest level of quality, and within reasonably balanced constraints. If the customer/sponsor signs off on our wonderful documentation, then all the better. However that in itself is not an indication of project success, only a happy customer/sponsor.

Project Management activities demands 20%-25% of total project time. Project documentation activities time are inside those percentages. Then, I write documentation as quickly as defined into project documentation activities. Project documents are deliverables related to project life cycle and project governance life cycle.

Documentation is a window into the project, offering insights, baselines, and history. It can be said, if there is no documentation for the project, it never happened :). And how about for maintenance and turnover?

That said, there certainly is a distinction b/t proper documentation and over and above the needs of the project. My suggestion is to define a matrix for required documentation based on specific project characteristics, such as size, budget, importance. Obviously, a 300 hour enhancement effort requires less documentation than a 2K hour initiative.

Daniel -

I like Jeff Patton's saying: shared documents does not equal shared understanding.

Documentation is a means to an end - if your project gets cancelled mid-stream and all that's been delivered is a set of documents, most clients are not going to be pleased.

Minimally sufficient & fit for purpose are the two mantras I intone whenever the topic of documentations arises!


Documentation starts at the very beginning of project idea. Sharing the documents facilitate the understanding of it, however, it does not completely assure the correct understanding. You have to do lots of communication and efforts to reach a common correct understanding. I am totally opposed to the idea you presented: " work is often directly related the task of documentation", I believe the project management is much more than documentation. The documentation is only the evidence we provide for the work we did or will do.

Good point you are raising.
The organizational governance plays a role in the amount of effort put on documentation. But since a fair amount of project documents are based on templates, the effort required becomes lesser. The Project Manager's work is to establish and populate content in a manner suitable for the intended audience. That said, depending on the nature of the project, the establishment of content takes time.

Thank you for your answers, I obviously agree with all of your assessments. They're all fair and accurate and just to be clear I was never stating here, perhaps because of the black and white nature of my two questions posed, that it couldn't be some where in-between or percentage of the time that documentations is completed. I'm also not assuming that project documentation is not an important and crucial role of the project, I mean if I did I would be the worst PM in the world lol and probably audited weekly. Abolfazi, to the idea the idea I proposed, " work is often directly related the task of documentation", that is not an idea, but an opinion, it's an opinion that's held by some people outside but tangentially related to project work, it's also a perspective that I don't agree with either.

However, in my analysis of the responses, it seems like that we're all in a agreement that documentation is a small yet crucial part of project but there's a lot that goes on "being the scenes" to share our common understanding of our conceptualized view of the project. That's fine and to be expected but leads me to yet another question.

Do we really spend enough time as Project Manager's on transitions of one project from PM to PM? Especially if one PM is being rolled off because their contract is ending, In terms of the institutions I have worked there seems to be little formal guidance around this effort and mostly consists of shadowing activities and very limited documentation. This might be due to the nature of a transition and the feelings that might arise of loss of control if it wasn't a mutually agreeable change of project ownership.

I realize I'm raising more questions here than I'm an answering but that's the way it should be I believe, if not should often is.

Thank you all for your responses so far, their thoughtful and well informed.

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