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 + 4 + 4?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Seven Key Principles of Project Management

Hand holding a key with success written on the fob

If you're looking for guidance to help you manage your project with added confidence, then this article will help you.

Work Breakdown Structure Made Easy

Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure is a deliverable-oriented, hierarchical decomposition of the work to be completed by a project team.

Belbin and Successful Project Teams

Business team brainstorming using coloured labels on an office table

Creating successful project teams is a daunting task for project leaders. A good method for matching people to roles is the Belbin Team Inventory Method (BTIM).

Estimating Project Costs

Money and a calculator

Tips and advice for estimating project costs, including three point estimating and Monte Carlo Simulation in MS Excel.

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

Peter Earnshaw commented on…
Pareto Analysis Step by Step
- Tue 4 February 2:03am

Lesiba Matlou commented on…
Writing a Funding Proposal
- Sun 26 January 5:18am

Tim Rumbaugh commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Sat 28 December 6:48pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: PMP formulas cheat sheet https://t.co/lC4ZSfYPsx about 24 days ago

General Project Management • PMP formulas cheat sheet https://t.co/b4C2fpdWqN about 26 days ago

General Project Management • Implement a new audio and video recording system? https://t.co/SY5tnWhZTu about 30 days ago