Creating and managing a project is an important part of a company’s operations. When done right, it helps every part of the business run more smoothly. The team will find that the things that really matter are on their schedule. There are no distractions to cause a massive loss in productivity. You already know just how important it is to set up a dependable process and minimize failures. At one point or another, you’ll have to write everything down. Tempting as it may be to deal with documentation at a later date, you should do it right now. As the project moves on, the lack of documentation can turn out to be disastrous from a productivity standpoint. 

At its most basic, project documentation is a collection of documents such as proposals, project plans and specifications, business cases, design guidelines/sketches, project status reports, and project team meetings. The sheer volume of paperwork involved is overwhelming to managers and team members alike. If good documentation is a wise investment, why don’t you go the extra mile? Create more documents than you need, as you’ll be able to re-use them next time, with a little bit of adaptation. If you want to stay on top of project documentation from day one, keep in mind these tips. 

Format Your Project Documentation Well

It’s nice, desirable even, for documents to have a consistent look and feel. In this respect, you’ll want to: 

  • Use headings. Headings provide the document a structure, which in turn helps readers navigate it and understand the content hierarchy. Use concise, descriptive language so that the reader knows what to expect from each section. Avoid using vague headings or too many headings, for that matter. 
  • Use lists. Lists enable you to draw attention to important points. They simplify the message, so readers are likely to get to the end. Lists can be ordered and numbered. Don’t use a list if you have only one item.
  • Add meaningful hyperlinks. Hyperlinks allow you to link to specific parts of the project documents for instant access to information. The hyperlink can be text or graphics. You can provide information without having to repeat the same information on different pages. Equally, you can link to other documents. 
  • Pay attention to the document language. Use simple language. It’s best to avoid technical jargon and difficult terms in writing. Your language has to be clear, simple, and not difficult to understand. 
  • Use tables wisely. A well-formatted table includes a caption that identifies it, and it makes use of headings and doesn’t contain merged cells. Also, it maintains the black and white color scheme for readability.

What matters here is people’s ability to find information.  

Common Types of Document Formatting 

Typing is the most common thing you do on a computer. Regardless of what you’re working on, it will be saved as a text file. In what follows, we’ll briefly discuss the most common formats, identifiable by extensions. 

  • .Doc/.Docx – Microsoft Word lets you create documents like reports, which you can make more attractive by adding color, tables, and even clip art. There are other apps for creating Word files, such as Open Office and LibreOffice. 
  • .PDF – It’s the best format for deliverables that require approval, input, or a final design. You can extract files or merge PDF files to store the documents and review them more easily. A PDF file can be viewed with many programs, as the author intended it to appear. Plus, it’s print-ready. 
  • .HTML5 – HTML5 is accepted by all browsers and can be displayed on all devices. It supports video and audio embedding. Tags can be used to define headings, paragraphs, links, quotes, and so on. 
  • .PPT/.PPTX – PowerPoint presentations support image, text, and video. PPT and PPTX are collaborative solutions that can be exported in different formats. Most importantly, they facilitate communication with the audience. 

It’s up to you to determine the best file extension for your professional task.  

Keep Core Documents in One Place

You must keep reports, graphs, documents, change requests, and so on throughout the duration of the project. This paperwork brings clarity and transparency to what everyone is working on, so it’s highly unlikely that tasks will get duplicated. Write down what’s necessary while keeping the audience in mind. Project documents are interim deliverables, which means that they’re outputs of the project development that haven’t been finalized or accepted by the customer. Specify, schedule, and plan for producing them. If the team is going to deploy the documentation, they should be able to get to it. 

Keep key documents in one place. Chasing after information across Slack channels, chats, emails, or shared drives is a waste of time. Consider using a project management solution. Everyone involved in the project, from stakeholders (customers) to corporate management, will have a clear picture of the situation. You can clarify expectations and objectives, break down the work into manageable chunks, and make sure everyone is up to date with the progress. Project documentation should be fully accessible, but you’ll have to preserve confidentiality, maintain data protection, and guard against unauthorized edits.  

Set Reminders to Update the Documentation 

Projects change all the time. As a result, documents change too. It would be best to set up reminders to update project documents so that they remain accurate. What is more, people should be informed about these changes. The error could lead to the complete failure of the project. Make the necessary adjustments and let people know about it. They shouldn’t be working on older versions of the documents. Each file should contain unambiguous details that allow users to know its status. What is more, manage and track changes to the documents. The last thing you want is two people working on different versions of the document. 

The actions mentioned above are necessary to keep control of the project. Change brings transparency, not to mention a degree of formality. Nonetheless, it would help if you exercise your professional judgment. If a change to the milestone was approved, then the entire schedule needs to be amended. The trick is knowing what to do at every stage of the process.  

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