Using Common Sense With Documentation

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DocumentationThough I really love good documentation, going heavy on it does not guarantee a successful project.  At my last engagement a product manager asked why she had to go back and complete a business case, a feasibility study, and a charter when her team was already several months into development of  the current release.  She was being consumed by back-filling this documentation.  I believe this was a poor business decision by someone higher in the organization.  They did not “get it”.  Documentation is nothing more then a communications tool.  When improperly used, a tool will not necessarily give you the benefit you need.  Need to drive in a nail?  You wouldn’t use a screw driver, would you?  Then why would you ask someone to use their valuable time and energy to create a document for the sake of creating the document?  Use the appropriate tool at the appropriate time to get the appropriate results.  If there was a 1 year project with a requirement stating there had to be a feasibility study, then you better have one.  You should have done it at the inception of the project.  But, if you have a project that is only 1 month long, use some common sense.

My recommendation is you spend a little time identifying documentation that truly meets your needs.  More importantly, identify documentation that truly meets your customer’s needs.  You’re not impressing anyone with a SharePoint site or filing cabinet filled to the brim with documentation nobody ever looks at.  One good example of a document that provides value is a Project Charter.  I know, there are hundreds of you out there rolling your eyes.  You figure your stakeholders are not going to sign this document (though they should), formally authorizing a project or a phase.  But, this same artifact does document initial requirements that satisfy the stakeholder’s needs and expectations.  Having this document and answering those questions is going to increase the probability of you having a successful project.  Use it as a communication tool!

Since a majority of the search results coming to this website are from people looking for Free Project Management related templates and worksheets, I decided I better give my readers what they are looking for.  You are my customer!  You have expressed a need or want for templates and worksheets.  I should make it my goal to satisfy those needs.

I’m currently working on a new business case template. What will be in it, you ask?

Project Overview

  1. Problem Statement
  2. Project Description
  3. Project Goals and Objectives
  4. Project Scope (what’s included and what’s excluded)
  5. Critical Success Factors
  6. Assumptions
  7. Constraints

Authority and Milestones

  1. Funding Authority
  2. Project Oversight Authority
  3. Major Project Milestones

Project Organization

  1. Project Structure
  2. Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Responsibility Matrix
  4. Project Facilities and Resources

Points of Contract

Glossary

Revision History

Appendices

Did I miss anything?  Give me a few days and I’ll have it done.

I welcome any feedback or comments.  Just post them below.

Regards,

Derek

Free Project Team Organization Worksheet

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Project Team OrganizationToday I’m going to write about (and provide) a free Project Team Organization worksheet to complement the Project Charter Template so many have downloaded. Both files are free for download, modification, and distribution. [Team Organization Worksheet] [Project Charter Template]

When using the Project Team Organization worksheet, note that there are 4 sections:  Structure, Roles and Responsibilities, and a Responsibility Matrix, Project Facilities and Resources.  I’m going to focus on the first three.

Step 1: Describe the organizational structure of the project team and stakeholders, preferably providing a graphical depiction (organization chart).

Step 2: Summarize roles and responsibilities for the project team and stakeholders identified in the project structure above.

Step 3: Complete the responsibility matrix for each of the project roles. As a graphical depiction of a more detailed perspective of responsibilities, the matrix should reflect by functional role the assigned responsibility for key milestones and activities.

Step 4: Describe the project’s requirements for facilities and resources, such as office space, special facilities, computer equipment, office equipment, and support tools. Identify responsibilities for provisioning the specific items needed to support the project development environment.  Hey, you’re people need places to sit and equipment to get their work done.

With preliminary approval, copy these values into Section 3 of our free Project Charter Template. Upon Project Charter approval, apply the identified team members to activities in Microsoft Project or your selected Project Management application.

Another thing I would recommend is leverage the data from this worksheet in your Communications Management Plan.  You’ve already identified people and their roles or responsibilities.  The most important thing to remember is do what makes sense.  This planning worksheet isn’t required to do a Charter.  It’s supposed to make things easier for you and lower the risk of not knowing who is on your team and what they are responsible for.

[Team Organization Worksheet] [Project Charter Template]

Free Work Breakdown Structure Worksheet

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WBS WorksheetAs I look at the logs of the Critical Path website, I notice a trend for what people are searching.  Most visitors coming to this site are searching for project management related templates and worksheets.  If there is one thing I try to instill in other project managers, it is listen to your customers!  That being said, here is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) worksheet to complement the Project Charter Template so many have downloaded.  Both files are free for download, modification, and distribution. [WBS Worksheet] [Project Charter Template]

When using the WBS worksheet, list the project’s major milestones and deliverables, the corresponding unique identifying numbers, and the target dates for delivery. This list should reflect products and/or services delivered to the end user as well as the delivery of key project management or other project-related work products.

With preliminary approval, copy these values into Section 3.2 of our free Project Charter Template.  Upon Project Charter approval, copy the values from the major milestones column into Microsoft Project or your selected Project Management application and begin creating the activity list (decomposing).

Free Project Charter Template

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Project Charter Template How many times have you started working on a project and don’t even have formal authorization for that project to exist?  A project charter is a document issued by the project initiator or sponsor that formally authorizes the existence of the project, and provides the project manager with the authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.  Using this template will put all the cards on the table.  Knowing answers to key areas before you begin will save you time and money.

This document includes areas for project overview, authority and milestones, organization, and points of contact.

On your current project, do you know the project oversight authority?  Do you know your critical success factors? Have you documented all of your project roles and responsibilities?  If you used this template, you would increase your chances for success by documenting the basics up front.

MS Word[Click here to download the free Project Charter Template]