Speed Up Creating Project Documentation
Project management involves plenty of documentation – thankfully most electronic these days. However, there are still lots of files to create and many stakeholders to extract information from in order to get (and keep) the project moving.
Documentation is an essential part of project communication. From the initial bid to the contract, from the plan to the reports, documents support each and every part of how the work gets done. If preparing paperwork makes you want to slap a hard hat on and get back out on to site, then here are some tips to make creating project documentation and the whole process faster and easier.
1. Use templates
Never create a document from scratch. Even tender documents and responses can be largely templated. Start a repository of common paragraphs that can be copied and pasted – then simply tweak to make them better fit the current project.
Rely on your PMO for standard project management documentation like templates for a statement of work, project plan, quality documents and reports. If they don’t have what you need, look for templates from other reliable sources, such as project managers in your company who have worked on similar initiatives, or ask customers and suppliers for their preferred format and use what they provide.
Project management software like Deltek Cobra comes with built-in templates for reporting and more. Take a look at those before creating anything from scratch.
Always check a template or document is fit for purpose. You can add in extra headings or delete sections to make it a better fit for your work, and even that will save time over starting from a blank screen.
2. Automate as much as possible
Set up your project management software to automate the creation of documentation as far as you can. Need a resource report? There’s one in Primavera P6. Need earned value management numbers? Set up your EVMS to generate what is required at the click of a button. Create bespoke reports or save reports as templates to use on future projects. Set up dashboards in BI Publisher to serve real-time data whenever you need it.
You can change the header fonts in P6 to better match your brand and make it schedule reporting more legible and accessible for your stakeholders. There are many small tweaks that can speed up creating reports to share with other people.
Yes, it takes time to put the systems in place, but that time investment will payback many times over in the months to come.
3. Create an approval process
Some documents are living, useful, management files. Others need to be circulated for approval. It’s not uncommon for there to be many iterations of proposals, business cases or plans.
Make sure you know what the process is for approval. If possible, set up workflows in your software so each approver is alerted to the need to read and review a new document.
Knowing who is involved and who has the authority to finally sign something off makes the whole approval process much faster. You can alert them in advance so they know to look out for the file – and you can chase them if they take too long!
4. Store files centrally
No local file storage should be the rule. Even if you are on a client’s site, there will be times where you can connect to the internet and sync your files back to ‘base’. Then if your device is stolen, damaged or lost, your data remains safe.
It also makes it a lot easier to find documents when you need to refer to them in the future. Set up a central document repository for your project and some guidelines around naming conventions and folder locations.
Storing files on systems like Google Drive or Microsoft Teams means multiple people can access and edit them at the same time without creating different versions. That can speed up the review and editing process. If you prefer that people don’t have access to make changes, you can set file permissions to make that possible.
5. Check your work
When time is short, it’s easy to miss a typo here and there. Switch on your spellcheck software. Use a grammar checker. Look up words you aren’t sure of so you are using them correctly, or swap them out for simpler language that you (and everyone else) will understand clearly.
Finally, look for ways to make your files as short as possible. There are obviously some exceptions – you need all those contract clauses, even if you know they’ll never be read after the initial signing – but you don’t need pages of waffle in project scope when a clear list of requirements is enough. No one has time to wade through flowery language and self-important verbiage (see what we did there?).
Instead, keep it simple and short. Use graphs, tables and charts to get your message across to cut down the number of words.
We’ll never get away from project documentation – and frankly, it supports project delivery so we wouldn’t want to. But there’s nothing wrong with looking at it as any other project task: something to be delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible. With these tips for speeding up creating project documentation, hopefully you’ll be able to do just that.