The purpose of developing and maintaining project documents is to initially help define the project and form a basis for ongoing management and assessment of its overall success.
From a PRINCE2 perspective, the documents developed during the Starting Up and Initiating stages (for example, the Project Initiation Document/PID) have three primary uses:
- Ensure that the project has a sound basis before asking the Project Board to make any major commitment to the project
- Act as a base against which the Project Board and Project Manager can assess progress, issues and ongoing viability questions
- Provide a single source of reference about the project so that people joining the ‘temporary organisation’ can quickly and easily find out what the project is about and how it is being managed
Project planning is extremely important, as it is a not only a means of identifying the tasks required throughout the life of a project, but also used as a measure of control. Plans should be treated as ‘working documents’ and be regularly updated and communicated to the relevant stakeholders. Sometimes larger projects are broken down into stages, with their own project stage plans developed and approved. Essentially, a project plan answers basic questions about the project:
What? – What is the work that will be performed on the project? What are the major products/deliverables?
Who? – Who will be involved and what will be their responsibilities within the project?
When? – What is the project timeline and when will particular meaningful points, referred to as milestones, be complete?
It is recommended that regular reviews are made both during the life of a project and particularly at the end to check delivery against original objectives. It is also useful to conduct and report some sort of lessons learnt review, which can be used for future similar projects.
It is not necessary to have every piece of project documentation to be completed for every project, although there are some key documents which should ideally be applied to all.
The level of detail within project documents can and should be tailored to suit the project. For example, a Business Case for a small project may only contain one or two sentences for each heading, whereas a larger project may contain a much greater level of detail (or perhaps additional supporting documents).