The Importance of Documentation in Project Management

April 16, 2010 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Communications Management,Information Distribution,Project Management Best Practices

The Importance of Documentation in Project Management (#3 in the series Brief Tips for Project Managers)
By Sondre Bjørnebekk

Even if you use lightweight methods, which can be an excellent choice, with less focus on documentation it does not mean that you abandon writing down conclusions from meetings, internal discussions or how a difficult project issue was agreed to be handled. My most basic, but maybe the most useful, tip is:

Be sure to put conclusions in writing immediately, even if not using documentation heavy methods

I find over and over in projects that same discussions will be repeated throughout the project because participants are unsure what was concluded. To settle a discussion can sometimes be hard and time consuming work. Then you ought to think that writing it down and sending it by email just “to confirm and summarize my understanding of the conclusion” would be easy and done at once? The next time, do it.

Writing down conclusions is equally useful for internal architectural discussions and for external commercial ones. This is also related to the previous point about expectations and mutual understanding. You have the chance to use the power of definition. Your customer or your team will even thank you for it most of the time. Writing things down to document decisions will help you tremendously delivering projects, agile or not – it is what consultants like to call quick wins or low-hanging fruits.

That was my tip #3. Now go pick those fruits. I look forward to read any comments – even if you don’t agree, or maybe particularly if that is the case.

This article was originally published at in January 2009.

Sondre Bjørnebekk is an experienced project manager with a proven track record. He is currently running his own company, Innovation Consulting. Sondre holds an MSc degree in computer science from NTNU (the Norwegian University of Technology and Science) and an MBA in technology management from NTNU and MIT Sloan. Sondre maintains a Project Management Blog, the Project Management Monkey.

3 people have left comments

Great post. I completely agree with you that it’s important to get things down in writing to keep your memory fresh and be able to clearly refer back to decisions already made.

I think documenting is key in projects, but it’s often pushed aside for one reason or another. I wrote a blog post last week where I discuss why this is –

Aaron Ramroth wrote on April 16, 2010 - 5:21 pm | Visit Link

I think a person can overly document anything – and that’s either through strict habits that aren’t necessary anymore or having not much more to do than create mounds of paperwork. However, documentation in project management is critical. Lessons learned, budgets, the conclusions you mentioned, the WBS, the project schedule – these are just some of the documents a project should have.

Laura Bamberg wrote on April 19, 2010 - 9:50 am | Visit Link

I agree. Wring the MOM should be strictly followed and also to publish the same. What ever was discussed what ever was agreed what ever is the summary should get documented to avoid repetetion of discussion on points, to afix the owner ship of any task or issue to take-up further.

Om Jaiswal wrote on September 18, 2010 - 7:16 am | Visit Link

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