list of documents

Project Documentation: Essential Documents You Need To Have

Project documentation is vital to the success of any project. Documentation serves as a compass, providing guidance and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

It can be a chore, but it is a necessary one. You need to have sufficient project documentation to ensure that all activities are tracked and everyone knows what is going on throughout the duration of the project.

There are various types of project documentation, and the specific documents you need will depend on the type and scale of your project. A project lasting several years will have significantly more documentation than a much shorter project.

In this article, we will look over some essential documentation that you should always have, and discuss the importance of having all the right documents for your firm.

Let’s get going!

Project Charter

The project charter is the first essential piece of documentation that sets out every project.

It is a fairly short document that covers your entire project from head to toe, and is used throughout the project lifecycle as a reference point to figure out the next steps to be taken.

Although they differ slightly depending on the size and complexity of the project, a typical charter should answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • What are the key deliverables?
  • When will the project be completed?
  • How much will it cost?

This document should be created at the start of the project, and all team members should be aware of its contents.

In order to create a project charter, you must understand the project’s purpose, objectives, and deliverables. You should also be aware of any risks or challenges that might impact the project.

Only then can you produce a comprehensive and effective charter that encapsulates your project in its entirety.

In order to write an effective project charter, it’s crucial for you to get sign off from all stakeholders. This ensures that everyone is on board with the project from the very beginning and you have their full support.

Project Plan

The project plan is a more detailed document that builds on the project charter. It sets out all the tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve the project’s objectives, as well as who is responsible for each task, when it needs to be completed, and how much it will cost.

The project plan is a living document that should be updated as the project progresses. It is important to keep the project plan up-to-date so that everyone knows what needs to be done and when.

A well-written project plan can help to keep the project on track and ensure that it is completed on time and within budget.

large flowchart on wall

Requirements Document

The requirements document sets out all the features and functionality that need to be included in the final product or service. This is another document that should be created at the start of the project, and should be approved by all stakeholders before work on the project begins.

The requirements document should be clear and concise so that everyone understands what is required. It is also important to ensure that the requirements are realistic and achievable.

If the requirements document is not well-written, it can lead to problems later on in the project. For example, if the requirements are not clear, the team may build something that does not meet the needs of the stakeholders and therefore wastes a huge amount of time and money.

Getting these documents ironed out early on in the project lifecycle prevents problems like these from occurring.

Project Schedule

The project schedule sets out all the milestones and tasks that need to be completed in order to complete the project on time. This document should be created at the start of the project and updated throughout the project.

The project schedule is a critical tool for keeping the project on track. It can help to identify potential problems early on and ensure that the project stays on schedule.

Change Control Plan

The change control document lays out an actionable plan as to how changes to the project will be managed.

It is essential for ensuring that all changes are tracked and approved by the relevant stakeholders. Without a change control plan, it would be very difficult to make changes to the project without everyone being aware of them.

It also gives you the chance to set out a change control process so that you know exactly what to do when changes do come about.

Communications Plan

The communications plan provides an outline to determine how information will be communicated between the various stakeholders involved in the project.

The purpose of this plan is to ensure that everyone is kept up to date with the latest information about the project. Without a communications plan, it would be a common occurrence for important information to be missed by some of the stakeholders.

Risk Management Plan

The risk management plan sets out how risks will be managed throughout.

It is essential for ensuring that all risks are identified and mitigated, no matter how big or small they may be. Every project has a number of risks associated with it, and this piece of documentation allows you to manage these as effectively as possible.

architecture plan with pencil on document

5 Benefits to Having all the Right Project Documentation

Having the right project documentation can be priceless. Here are 5 benefits of doing so:

1. Keeps Everyone on the Same Page

Documentation is important to keep everyone aligned and on the same page. All team members should be able to access the latest version of all project documents, so that they can be sure they are working off of the most up-to-date information.

You can achieve this best by using a project management tool like Jira or Trello, which allows for easy document sharing and tracking.

Keeping everyone on the same page benefits the firm by ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently and effectively.

2. Saves Time in the Long Run

Documentation may seem like a time-consuming process, but it will save you time in the long run.

By having all the information about your project in one place, you will be able to reference it quickly and easily when you need to.

This will save you time spent hunting for documents or trying to remember details from past meetings.

3. Ensures Accuracy

Project documentation ensures accuracy by providing a record of what was decided and agreed upon at each stage of the project.

This is especially important when there are multiple stakeholders involved, as it can be difficult to keep track of everyone’s input. Having a clear and concise record will help to ensure that the project is completed according to the original plan.

4. Helps to Meet Deadlines

Project documentation can help you to meet deadlines by providing a clear timeline of what needs to be done and when. Project plans and schedules in particular can be useful here.

This can be especially helpful when working on large or complex projects, as it can be easy to lose track of what needs to be done next. Having a well-documented plan will help you to stay on track and meet your deadlines.

5. Make Changes Easily

If you need to make changes to your project, it will be much easier to do so if you have all the documentation in one place.

You can quickly and easily see what has been done so far and what still needs to be done, which will help you to make changes without disrupting the project too much.

hand holding a small clock

5 Tips to Document Effectively

Project documentation is important to have for a variety of reasons. It can help with project management, be used as evidence in case of disputes, and serve as a reference point for future projects. Documentation can also help new team members get up to speed on a project quickly.

With that said, here are five tips to help you document effectively:

1. Keep it Simple

Your documentation should be clear and concise. It should be easy to read and understand, even for someone with no prior knowledge of the project.

2. Be Consistent

Use the same terminology and format throughout your documentation. This will make it easier to read and understand, and will prevent confusion.

3. Use Diagrams and Illustrations

Visual aids can be very helpful in conveying information quickly and effectively. When possible, use diagrams and illustrations to supplement your written documentation.

4. Use Templates

There are many software applications that offer templates for project documentation. These can be very helpful in ensuring that your documentation is consistent and complete.

5. Review and Update Regularly

As your project progresses, make sure to review and update your documentation accordingly. This will ensure that it remains accurate and up-to-date.


The Bottom Line

Project documentation is essential to ensure that all activities are tracked and everyone knows what is going on throughout the duration of the project.

There are various types of project documentation, and the specific documents you need will depend on the type and scale of your project.

In this article, we have looked over some essential project documentation that you should always have as well as discussing some tips for effective documentation.

The overwhelming conclusion seems to be to pick up your pen, and get documenting as soon as possible!