If you’ve ever had the desire to be a project manager, and were a little curious to take a peek inside the inner workings of this interesting career, we can offer you a quick glimpse into a very specific aspect of project management: the documents that they use on a regular basis. As you can imagine, project management is a complex job, with many responsibilities falling onto the shoulders of these workers. With each phase of a project comes a new batch of issues that must be addressed, as well as the documents that are necessary for these phases to get underway.
Today, we will be discussing the documents used by project managers, beginning with the initiation of a project, on through to its completion. Each project is different, with its own particular set of issues to be dealt with, so the documents used by one project manager could be vastly different from those of another project manager, with the documents discussed today being some of the more widely used in the industry. If you’d like to learn more about project management, this article on how to run projects efficiently and this course on the tools and techniques of the industry will both show you the nuts and bolts of this career. If you’re truly serious about this as a career option, this course on prepping for the PMP exam will help you cram for this important test.
In this, the first step of a project, the project manager must define the framework for the project, which, at this point, technically doesn’t even exist yet. Some of the goals of this important stage include dictating the project’s scope, justifying its existence, securing funds, if necessary, and making sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
- Project Proposal: The very first document prepared when undertaking a project, the proposal exists before the project officially does, and can be seen as a sort of sales pitch. It may explain to others the details of the project, and is used to garner funds and resources so that the project can begin.
- Project Charter: Once the project has been approved, the charter must then be drawn up to define the scope and objectives of the project. It delineates specific roles and responsibilities of those involved, identifies major objectives, and crystalizes the authority of the project manager herself. The project charter is especially important because it will be used as a reference point in future stages of the project.
- Project Initiation Document (PID): The PID is a document that may be used instead of or in conjunction with the previous two documents. It is basically a user-created checklist that is specific to the project being undertaken. It outlines the basic information described in the charter and the proposal, so the PID may not be necessary if the other two are already in place. This site on project initiation documents explains all about this document, and even offers some downloadable templates to make things a little easier.
This is when the project really starts to grow wings, and the documents associated with this stage become numerous and involved. Here, what must be figured out is how the project will progress, as well as how each part will be executed. It’s important that the planning done in this phase be thorough and secure, as this is where the foundation for the rest of the project is laid.
- Change Management Plan: It’s assumed that at some point in the life of a project, a curve ball or two will be thrown at you, and this curveball must be prepared for, which is what the change management plan is for. The changes that are planned for in this document include those of scope, cost, and schedule. This course on the essentials of project management will show you how to better manage cost, scheduling, and other management fundamentals so you hopefully don’t come across to many surprises.
- Communications Plan: A vital aspect of any project, no matter the size, is communication. One of the major roles of the Communications Plan is to lay out the details of meetings, dictating when, and how often meetings will happen, as well as what will be discussed in them.
- Product and Work Breakdown Structure: These documents work in conjunction with the Project Plan, and explain what products, or outcomes, must be produced in order to achieve a specific goal, as well as what work is necessary to carry these goals out. These documents may be prepared in an Excel spreadsheet. If you’re not too confident in your Excel skills, this course on Excel 2013 will create a strong foundation for using this helpful software.
- Project Plan: Encompassing the previous two documents, the Project Plan is the most important tool in the project manager’s arsenal. It lays out for him the phases, activities, and tasks necessary to complete a project, offering information on costs, timeframes, resources, HR management, and communications info.
- Quality Assurance Plan: Aiding in making sure the quality of the project is maintained, this document involves the input of the customer, and requires the use of checks and balances among those involved, in order to insure proper quality.
Typically the longest phase of the project lifecycle, the execution phase consumes the most energy and resources. Issues such as time, cost, quality, change, and risk are all factors that must be attended to during this phase. There are many documents involved in this phase, so for the sake of time and space, we will only mention some of the more important ones.
- Implementation Checklist/Plan: These documents allow the project manager to double check at any time to see if any details have been overlooked. The checklist lays them all out, while the plan allows the manager to set into action these details at the appropriate time. Details may include scheduling, contingencies, communication, etc.
- Options Analysis: If at any time in the life of a project there is a question as to what direction a certain detail should take, the Options Analysis should be able to answer that question. In this document, the various options are weighed against feasibility, risks, and timing, among other effects.
- Test Plan: Overseeing the testing team and their activities, this document dictates how the various components of the project will be tested and verified, including testing objectives, scopes, methodology, and environment.
Like its name suggests, this is the final phase of a project, with it either having been completed or cancelled. Here, the project manager makes sure the benefits have been met, the objectives completed, lessons recorded for future reference, and that the project is closed down.
- Post-Implementation Questionnaire/Review: In these documents, information about the project is gathered (the questionnaire), then recorded and analyzed (the review).
- Project Closure Report: This document formally shuts down the project. It includes the project’s final budget, any changes that occurred, any outstanding issues with the project, and any other pertinent information gained from the questionnaire and review previously mentioned.
As you may be able to tell, project management is a good career choice, especially for the most organized of people. There is a lot involved in seeing a project through, from inception to completion, and much of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the project manager. If this career seems interesting and like something you might be interested in pursuing, this course on the basics of project management provides a good intro, and this course on the more detailed and advanced theories and practices will show you if you’re truly meant for this career.