Project Documentation Guide (with Examples and Templates)

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
project-documentation

Creating and managing projects is crucial for the effective running of any organization. Many project teams tend to struggle to repeat the same success levels they reached in previous projects or keep on repeating the same mistakes they made in previous projects. You can trace this to the lack of a solid project documentation process.

Effective project documentation is key for recording successful new projects. Establishing a dependable project documentation process helps you emulate past process successes and minimize previous failures or shortcomings.

The job of project documentation is to help you track your project’s progress and carve out a more organized and systematic way of executing and managing your projects.

Despite its clear importance, many project managers prefer not to use it due to how tedious, repetitive, and boring the process may seem. However, what often separates a successful project from a failed one is comprehensive project documentation.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about project documentation.

Let’s get started.

What is Project Documentation?

Project documentation is the process of adequately keeping records of key project details in an organized manner. All the documents about the project process produced during the project process are what comprise project documentation. Examples of project documents range from project proposals to business cases to project status reports.

Proper project documentation ensures key documents needed for successful and prompt implementation of project strategies are readily available.

The project documentation process lists out a clear and well-detailed procedural method for the proper organization of key project documents. This ensures the project process goes on as smoothly as possible and key documents are within the reach of the project team.

Examples of Project Documents

Defining what is to be documented during a project process is dependent on the project description. Big projects require much more documentation than small-scale projects. But overall, some basic documents are needed irrespective of the project’s job description.

1. Project Proposal

A project proposal is often the first official document created for a project process. This document serves as the project initiator. The aim of creating this document is to paint a clear picture in the mind of the key project members and stakeholders on why they should buy into the project ideas.

Simple Project Proposal Template
Source: Smartsheet

2. Project Charter

The project charter is a key project document that serves as one of the foundational building blocks of the project planning process.

A well-drawn-up project charter should contain the ways the project would achieve its desired results. In addition, the project charter should also detail the key requirements, budgetary allocation, and the roles and responsibilities of every project undertaker.

Project Charter Template
Source: Qimacros

3. Project Plan

The project plan serves as an efficient road map for the project. A good project plan details the key project milestones and the timeline expected for its completion.

Regarded as the most flexible of all the project documents, the project plan is often subjected to changes throughout the project process.

4. Project Status Report

Keeping all project stakeholders on the happenings around the project process is important. The document that does just that is the project status report.

This essential project management report is designed to provide regular updates to project stakeholders on the progress made on the project. The project status report also spells out the next step to be taken during the project plan implementation phase.

Other key project document examples include project scope statement, risk management plan, cost management plan, communication plan, and financial plan.

The Value of Project Documentation

The importance of adequately documenting important project processes as they occur cannot be overemphasized. Proper project documentation makes the project management process much easier.

1. Breeds Effective Knowledge Management

You can learn lessons from previous projects embarked on if you document the former project process properly. Project documentation helps prevent the recurrence of past mistakes.

This also helps improve on the former service delivery as the necessary documented knowledge can now be passed across to the new project.

2. Helps Set and Define Your Project Goals

Project documentation is an efficient guide that helps you effectively set your project goals and define the necessary steps to be taken in achieving the set goals.

Drawing up the necessary project documents needed at the project onset helps give the project a sense of clarity. Project documentation also gives the project team a sense of direction as to where the project is heading based on the project objectives and schedule already detailed in the necessary project documents.

3. Supports the Project Planning Stage

Each project document created by a project team is designed to serve a specific purpose in the project process. These documents serve as the necessary backup for the project planning process and help improve the service delivery of the project process.

4. Gives a Clear Overview of the Project

Keeping up-to-date project documentation ensures all projects are well informed of the status of the project process. Project documentation is an efficient tool project managers use to keep tabs on the project process in real-time.

5. Makes the Project Trackable

Proper project documentation makes the project process traceable and accountable. This encourages transparency as all the details are properly accounted for.

Project documentation helps the project manager in his ability to successfully conduct a thorough project evaluation at the end of the project process.

Project Documentation Tools

The introduction of various project documentation tools has made the project documentation process relatively easier and more efficient. These tools are specially designed to assist in project documentation processes.

1. Monday.com

Overall Best Project Documentation Platform

Monday.com is the Overall Best Project Documentation Platform

Monday.com is a project management software that provides users with an efficient project documentation tool. This platform is trusted by 127,000 customers including top brands such as BBC Studios, Coca Cola, Hulu, Uber, Universal, Discovery Channel, Deezer, and NBC.

Main Features

  • Templates: This project documentation tool provides users with hundreds of visual and easy-to-customize project documentation templates.
  • Good Customer Support: Monday.com boasts of a 24/7 customer support system that provides users with personalized and outstanding customer service relations.
  • Project Visualization: With this project management software, you can visualize your work either as a map, calendar, timeline, or Kanban.
  • Integrations: Monday.com integrates with all your favorite tools such as Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Excel, Gmail, LinkedIn, Zapier, and OneDrive.

Benefits

  • Offers a free 14-day trial period with no credit card required
  • Helps save time with its automation tool
  • Mobile applications
  • Easy collaboration
  • Provides a high level of reporting

2. Filestage

Best-Rated Project Review and Approval Platform

Filestage is the Best Rated Project Review and Approval Platform

Filestage is an easy-to-use review and approval software platform that specializes in efficient centralized collaboration. This platform is trusted by top companies such as ABInBev, Emirates, and LG.

Main Features

  • Due Date Feature: With this feature, you can ensure prompt project delivery and never have to worry about missing a deadline.
  • Feedback: Filestage offers a feedback mechanism where project members can react to newly updated project documents.
  • Doc Sharing: This review and approval software platform makes it easy for users to share their documents in a variety of formats such as DOC, DOCX, PPT, and XLS.

Benefits

  • Fast approval process
  • Unlimited reviewers
  • Full GDPR compliance
  • AES 256-bit encryption

3. Workzone

Robust Online Project Documentation Tool for Small, Medium, and Large Organizations

Workzone is the Robust Online Project Documentation Tool for Small, Medium and Large Organizations

Workzone is a project documentation tool specifically designed to make the project management process relatively easy. This platform is trusted by top institutions such as Boston University, Allianz, Wells Fargo, and Vizient.

Main Features

  • Approvals Workflow: This project documentation tool addresses any pending approvals quickly to help you avoid delays.
  • File Versioning: Workzone makes it easy for you to track changes made to your project documents. This tool helps project managers to manage the steady inflow of project documents being turned in by different individuals.
  • Project Dashboard: This project management tool allows you to view all your project details such as notes, project plans, action plans, and due dates. You can display your company logos on your project dashboard.

Benefits

  • Status alerts
  • Gantt charts
  • Project templates

4. TeamGantt

Visual Project Documentation Tool with Reliable Baselining Feature for Small Businesses

TeamGantt is the Visual Project Documentation Tool with Reliable Baselining Feature for Small Businesses

TeamGantt is an efficient project documentation software that focuses primarily on visuals. This online Gantt chart maker for project planning is used by top companies such as Intuit, Amazon, Nike, and Netflix.

Main Features

  • Intuitive Workspace and Workflow: This Gantt chart maker provides you with a smooth user interface that makes managing your workflow easier. You can create color codes for different elements of your workflow, create tasks and milestones with just a few clicks.
  • Baseline Feature: TeamGantt provides you with a baseline feature that helps you monitor your project performance. With this feature, you can compare your current project progress with the projected progress. This makes it easy for you to detect where your project went wrong.
  • PDF and Excel Exports: TeamGantt allows you to create beautiful project proposals and export your deliverables in PDF and Excel File formats.

Benefits

  • Supports the creation and storage of key project documents
  • Easy to use and intuitive
  • Interactive Gantt charts
  • Great tutorials for beginners

5. Smartsheet

Best Project Documentation Tool with Major Focus on Document Sharing and Collaborations

Smartsheet is the Best Project Documentation Tool with Major Focus on Document Sharing and Collaborations

Smartsheet is a project documentation tool that offers users much-needed support throughout the project documentation process. This software is trusted by top brands such as Apple, Pfizer, P&G, and American Express.

Main Features

  • Smart Task Management: This project management software helps you manage your projects and tasks effectively, You can easily change the start and finish date for any task.
  • Task Roll Up: Smartsheet offers you a comprehensive project summary feature called Task Roll Up. This feature provides you with an overview of your project information such as planned work hours, actual log hours, and percentage completion.
  • Collaborations: This project management platform helps you maintain effective communications among your team members. With its rich array of collaboration features, you can share files, receive notifications on important updates, and set reminders. You can also choose between three permission levels for your team (admin, editors, and viewers).
  • Integration: Smartsheet integrates with popular third-party applications such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Zapier, DocuSign, Gmail, Dropbox, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft OneDrive, and Box.

Benefits

  • 30-day free trial on paid plans
  • Customizations
  • Multiple templates
  • Easy imports from Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Projects

How to Document a Project

Taking out time to prepare a project document and the document not getting the needed attention can be very frustrating. This is usually the case because the project document was not presented in the best possible way to project team members.

Getting the much-needed and appreciative response for your efforts at proper project documentation is vastly dependent on how you document the project process.

1. Organize All Project Documents in One Place 

As the project process is ongoing, a series of documents tend to emanate from the project process. This is to ensure all the stages involved in the process are adequately accounted for.

In keeping up with these developing stages, project documents are created. These documents tend to become cumbersome due to their volume and it might overwhelm the project team.

Creating an orderly arrangement for the project document and collating them in one centralized location for easy access helps to simplify the project documentation process.

Generating interest from your project team regarding important project documents is a necessary factor to the success of the project process. Key project documents need to be easy to read and understand by all project stakeholders.

Making these key project documents easy to access by all project stakeholders will go a long way in generating much-needed interest.

For ease of convenience, you can also include a search function tool that specifies the particular project document required from loads of project documents available to the project team.

3. Keep it Lightweight

You must ensure your project document is not bulky and too detailed to ensure the document is easy to understand by the project team. Irrespective of the fact that your project document needs to be well-detailed, it should be restricted to key details that affect the project process.

Long pages of project documents prevent the project team from going effectively through them. This grooms a lack of interest. You should ensure your project document is as concise as possible without directly affecting the project’s document efficiency.

4. Keep it Presentable at All Times

Your project document should be kept neat, readable, and presentable at all times during the project process. Changes are likely to occur during the process and your project document should be flexible enough to adapt to these changes as they arise.

You should consider making your project document digital so that you can easily make significant changes without damaging the presentability of your project document.

Project Documentation Template

Several popular but necessary project documentation templates can help you in your project documentation process.

1. Project Business Case Document Template

One Page Business Case Template
Source: Smartsheet

Project business case document template is a key project business document that ensures all the necessary business points as regards the project process have been adequately accounted for in the project document.

2. Project Charter Document Template

The project charter document template is used primarily during the project creation stage. This acts as an efficient guideline which your project team refers to from time to time.

3. Work Breakdown Document Template

Work Breakdown Structure Template
Source: Templatelab

Work breakdown document template is designed to create an adequate project document that meets the specific requirements of your project specification.

4. Risk and Issue Log Template

Risk and Issue Log Template
Source: Xlstemplates

Risk and issue log document template ensures there is a significant cover on the likely risk and issues that may arise during the project prices

5. Requirement Specification Template

Technical Requirements Document Template
Source: Smartsheet

This project documentation template ensures all the specific requirements of the project process are strictly adhered to and met.

6. Communication Plan Template

Communication Plan Template
Source: Blog.Hubspot

The communication plan template helps in ensuring there is effective communication among project stakeholders. This template also has the necessary tools to ensure prompt and timely dissemination of information.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.