Every project document explains or reports some part of the process.
So it’s important your project documents are consistent and clear. And that they accurately represent your process.
You’re most likely using templates to create your project documents.
But the templates may not be put together in a way that’s helping you get the best result.
What impact is this having on your project schedules and budgets?
Probably more than you think.
Whether you’re leading a project, program or PMO, you want to deliver the right results, on budget and on time
That’s what projects are all about.
But if you’re not getting what you want, it’s time to ask yourself:
- How often are projects misinterpreted or misunderstood because your project documents aren’t clear and consistent?
- Do discussions with customers (internal or external) indicate elements of projects have been lost in translation?
- Are your project teams complying with your project management methodology and process?
- Are new team members doing things their own way?
- How many projects are delayed because the quality of the documents is unacceptable to your customers?
- How much time is spent reviewing, editing and reworking project documents?
- How much is project document rework costing you? And what impact does this have on your company’s image and reputation?
If you’re not happy with your answers to these questions, fear not.
There’s a handy tool that makes the process of developing your project documents far more cost-effective and less painful for all concerned.
It’s the document template.
A place for everything, and everything in its place
The great thing about templates is that they give you a certain level of control over your documents.
They help you make sure everything that needs to be written, gets written.
And they make it easier to maintain quality and consistency of all documents for a project.
Doing a good job is always easier when you have the right tools. Good document templates give you so much, they’re more like a whole toolkit!
Just look at these 3 ways they can make a big difference to your projects:
1. Reduce delays and rework, and cut down on errors
I’ve worked on enough projects, for different companies, to know you’re probably underestimating the time it takes to prepare your project documents.
For this reason, and considering how many project documents you produce and how similar they can be, it makes sense to have templates.
Make your templates pre-formatted, fully branded, with join-the-dots style content. This lets your project teams spend their time where it matters most: writing the project specifics.
When you know the draft documents are going to conform to a predefined standard, format and style, you reduce the time and effort in editing and reviewing them. This allows reviewers to concentrate on the mechanics and logistics of the project, rather than the format and style of the documents.
When they’re focused on content, they’re more likely to pick up errors and omissions.
All up, this means a project’s stakeholders — internal and external — get consistent documents, at all stages of the project. And you have consistency across the whole document suite, and across all documents for all projects. This is going to be especially helpful to your project steering committees and PMO.
This gives you a more straightforward development, review, approval, acceptance and handover process for your documents, with clearer understanding at each stage, for every level of stakeholder.
2. Build in your project management methodology and process
Having a project management methodology and process is necessary. And they’re going to be most effective when they’re built into the templates used to document the project.
Take the Project Management Plan template.
For delivering projects to external customers, it can be structured and written to contain as much content as possible to reflect your methodology and process. This means addressing standard activities such as requirements for meetings and reporting, and the processes for managing issues and risks.
For delivering projects to internal customers you might just need to hyperlink to relevant processes that need to be followed.
Either way, you’re developing templates which comply with your methodology and process, so you get the results you want and you make it easier to manage quality and consistency.
3. Have better control over the quality of content
When new people join your project teams you don’t always want them bringing their old ways of doing things.
Even if they’ve used the same methodology, say PRINCE2, your project documents may be written to a different standard than they’re used to delivering.
You want them to come up to speed as quickly as possible to meet your expectations. And you can have a lot of control over this just by having the right templates.
Another reason for having well-developed templates is that your team members aren’t necessarily writers. They’re experts in their own fields.
Don’t let them waste time staring at a blank page wondering where to start. Give them well thought-out, carefully structured templates with loads of instructions. This takes out the guesswork and leads them to deliver the level of quality you want.
There’s nothing worse than reading the first few paragraphs of a document and feeling like you’ve just read the same thing said in three different ways.
So, make sure your template instructions include definitions and sample content. This helps people understand the difference between things like background, purpose, objectives and scope.
And invest the time to build copy-and-paste content and a re-usable body of knowledge based on your business processes. That way, everyone can pick and choose what they need to develop their documents and to meet your different project requirements.
Deliver the best result with customised project document templates
With the right templates, you’ll:
- optimise the time required to produce project documents
- produce documents that are high-quality and easy to understand
- streamline the process to write, edit and review documents
- help everyone to be efficient and productive
- build a re-usable body of knowledge to prevent re-inventing the wheel
- deliver documents that are a true reflection of your brand
- send a strong and consistent message to stakeholders.
The right templates give your project teams confidence because they know they’re supported every step of the way to produce documents they can be proud of.
And they help you improve the profitability of projects and increase your chances of winning repeat business.