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Essential Documents to Manage Your Projects

~ By Sam Elbeik, PhD

Spiral bound document

Speak to an experienced project manager, and they can give you a wealth of good advice on the do's and don'ts to successfully manage any project. All this advice, in a nutshell, would be about how to manage the people doing the work (that includes you too), to deliver their results on time and to a budget, while keeping the risk of failure to a minimum.

It really doesn't sound that difficult to do, but for some reason, many people think that project management is a massive overhead to any project. I often hear phrases like "oh, don't waste your time planning the work, just do it!" or "why are you wasting your time writing the objectives, we all know what needs to be done!"

So the number one shortcut to successfully manage any project is:

Understand the few essential brief documents you need to create and regularly review during the life of your project.

Document 1: The Project Charter

For example, at the beginning of your project, you need to create a one-page document called the project charter. This document will make sure that you and your customer understand the general goals of the project. After all, if you don't know where you are going, how are you going to get there? Remember, you could also be your own customer!

To get this information, have a meeting with your customer and ask the following three essential questions:

  • What are the objectives of your project?
  • What do you want to produce or deliver?
  • What is the business reason for doing this project?

After the meeting write the answers to these questions in your project charter and email this back to your customer and ask them for their approval.

You have now successfully completed the most important aspect of any project, and that is to understand and agree with your customer where you are going with this project.

If you look at the time spent to achieve this important step in a project, you are looking at one or two meetings and about 30 minutes to write up the information, say two hours in total for a small project. Not a big overhead at all.

Document 2: The Plan

You can now get on and create the second document call the plan. This will include a list of the work that needs to be done (also referred to as the scope of work), who will do it, the cost and time to do this work, and finally a simple review of what will go wrong, known as a risk assessment.

Document 3: The Progress Report

On a regular basis, anything from weekly to monthly, you need to create a progress report and deliver this to your customer. They want to know what work was done, when, and how much was spent. They also want to know if you need their help to solve any problems. Your major challenge is just collecting this information so that you can create your regular progress report.

A Final Thought

I have described the absolute minimum information you need to manage any project, and the key to success is understanding the few essential brief documents you need to create with this information - the project charter, the plan and the progress report. I hope it leads you to success in your projects.

Dr Sam Elbeik is an accomplished international project management trainer and author - visit Info Tech Centre and claim your free project management newsletter. Also, see his LinkedIn profile at and invite him to join your network.


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