Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

The Benefits of Documentation

~ By Ann Drinkwater

Businessman reading a document

As a practitioner and supporter of Agile and Lean, I am a strong believer in doing things for a reason and only those things that add value. So when it comes to documentation, many with basic exposure to Agile may think that the methodology means that project documentation is not created. Instead, it should be more about creating meaningful plans and if that means documentation, then it should also add value and be the proper amount. I do not believe in producing documentation (unless the contract specifically requires certain documents) for the sake of documentation. While many technical individuals balk at the thought and mention of documentation, I personally see some real benefits. Below are my top thoughts on documentation:

1. Determine What Others Need to Know

Think through all aspects of the project, implementation and post launch support and maintenance to determine what those within the direct project team and ancillary teams may need. If the implementation team is not the team supporting the project, there will undoubtedly be a need for some degree of documentation. Carefully analysing and consulting others on what they may need will better ensure your time is well spent.

2. Determine the Proper Method and Style

Once you have a handle on the content and type of documentation needed, you can look at the audience of that material. Does it need to be constructed in a searchable webpage, as a Wiki page or something more formal? The writing style and delivery method should be based on the audience, which is in turn determined by the content of the material.

3. Determine a Process for Updates

This is the hardest part. Keeping current with documentation requires a regimented process. Within our project schedules we should plan for continuous documentation updates and ensure that we take the time for these checkpoints. Once you get in a rhythm with documentation, work hard to keep it going. Restarting this behaviour and activity after a period of inactivity can be a challenge and hard to recover.

4. Consider Other Benefits and Applications

While the first three points focus on providing documentation to support a project or communication with others, the process of documenting is very much a planning exercise. Just going through the process of documenting requires our left brain, analytical hat and thinking through all aspects. This in itself can be very useful. I'd suggest identifying the major unknowns and high risk areas and determine documentation tasks for select portions. This can be helpful in getting the analysis started.

Documentation is a form of communication. Making good decisions about what to document, the method, style and process surrounding documentation is important. Every tasks within our projects requires careful consideration and documentation is no different. In order to be effective, you must have a specific goal and audience for the material.

How are you using, or not using, documentation within your projects?


Ann's professional focus is information technology project and programme management. She is a certified Project Manager (PMP), a certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and a member of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Educationally she holds an MS in Technology Management and a BA in Organisational Leadership and Development.

© Copyright 2005-2010 Ann E. Drinkwater. All Rights Reserved.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the sum of 1 + 3 + 3?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

12 Tips for Being a Good Manager

Businessman revealing the inner superhero

Keeping a project management team running smoothly can be a challenge, especially when budgets are lean and expectations are high.

Coming to Terms With the Finish Date

Colourful calendar pages

Every project has a finish date. This article looks at how the finish date for a project is derived and how a project team comes to terms with that date.

Break Your PMP Studies Into Small Pieces

A mature student concentrating on her studies

Taking the PMP exam is one of the biggest steps you'll take in your career as a Project Manager. With careful planning you can pass with a minimum of stress.

12 Tips for Accurate Project Estimating

Money and a calculator

Using a set of proactive estimating techniques to scope, plan and constrain your project conditions can dramatically improve your estimating practices.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Paula commented on…
How to Deal with the People Factor of Change Management
- Thu 16 May 2:52am

Billy Rane commented on…
6 Success Factors for Managing Project Quality
- Tue 14 May 4:30am

Duncan Haughey commented on…
When is a Project Manager not a Project Manager
- Fri 10 May 3:10pm

Latest tweets

In his short, but insightful article, A Thought-Provoking Idea on the Dangers of 'Nouns', Vishen Lakhiani looks at… https://t.co/PZ7MgdRqzw about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Some advice on software https://t.co/VX5cy3IdLb about 6 days ago

General Project Management • Advice for Best Complimentary Qualification https://t.co/djava71tDD about 8 days ago