Most people brush off project documentation as meaningless paperwork. In reality, companies waste close to 12 percent of their resources if they don’t have solid project management and documentation.
Effective documentation clearly defines project goals and milestones, establishes realistic timelines (by using timeline templates), lists the final deliverables, and enables performance tracking through relevant metrics.
It can be the difference between success and failure for any project. So it’s time for you to get started.
We’ve put together a set of nine project documentation templates to do the heavy lifting on your behalf.
But first, let’s answer these two questions. What is project documentation and why do you need it?
What is project documentation?
Project documentation includes a collection of documents for different aspects of the project, like budgets, goal-setting, performance tracking, risk management and more.
These documents ensure everything goes as planned and reduce the risk of budget overruns, changes in direction and conflicts.
Successful documentation brings transparency into the work and centralizes all project information. This lowers the chances of anything going off track and gives teams the resources to handle any unexpected hiccups.
Here’s what a typical project documentation sheet looks like.
Do you really need project documentation?
With so many moving parts in a project, project managers might think documentation is an extra — and unnecessary — step.
But documentation is crucial to putting everyone on the same page and creating seamless workflows for repeatable success.
If you're still weighing the decision of whether to invest your efforts in project documentation, here are five project documentation benefits to help you make the right decision.
1. Streamline project planning
Proper documentation simplifies planning from the start. It allows teams to consolidate inputs from multiple stakeholders and create a solid plan of action to hit desired goals.
Teams can also work faster by creating an extensive roadmap and a list of deliverables beforehand.
2. Set your team up for efficiency
Documents like a work breakdown structure and standard operation procedure (SOP) can clarify every aspect of the project. These documents capture the most important project knowledge to prevent mistakes and enhance the team’s efficiency.
3. Track progress and move forward
The right documentation brings greater accountability — so you can objectively assess team performance and find areas of improvement. This gives the team a chance to consistently succeed and keeps the project from derailing off its course.
4. Maximize collaboration and productivity
Documenting critical details prepares the team to complete the work without any bottlenecks or changes. This allows teams to work more collaboratively with higher productivity and achieve a greater success rate.
5. Encourage transparent communication
When you properly document every project detail, there’s little to no chance of information getting lost in translation. Documents ensure that all project knowledge — from meetings to SOPs — is available for everyone to view and use at any point.
10 Types of project documentation to consider
Project managers can document any information they consider crucial to a project.
While there’s no fixed set of documents to include, we’ve created a list of nine must-have project documentation templates you need for any project.
1. Standard project documentation
Project documentation is an essential tool for documenting and tracking the progress of a project.
This project documentation template includes a(n):
- Project Team.
- Project Scope.
- Budget Stakeholders.
- Risk and issues.
- Communication Plan.
- Project Deliverables.
- Project Success Criteria.
A project documentation template helps project managers and team members to keep track of important information such as project goals, timelines, resources and risks, and ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page.
2. Project charter
A project charter outlines a preliminary layout of the project, listing the:
This document validates the project and gives project managers a formal nod to start planning.
Since a charter is created at the start of a project, it doesn't cover much ground. Instead, it serves as a starting point where all stakeholders agree to kick off the project with an end goal and timeline for finishing it. So, a project charter template looks like this.
3. Project scope statement
The project scope offers a high-level overview of the project, covering its:
It’s basically a more complete version of the charter and offers more information about everything listed in the project charter.
Besides the essential details, a project scope also highlights what isn’t in the project to prevent scope creep — where some stakeholders demand extra work beyond the original plan of action.
It also assesses potential risks and challenges with feasible solutions.
Here's a project scope template with all the essentials. The template briefly summarizes the project and lists its primary goals.
You can also include a list of deliverables and milestones to easily track progress. The document covers other details like metrics, teams and roadmap.
4. Project management plan
A project management plan (PMP) is a clear roadmap to completing a project. It puts the project scope into action and offers a feasible plan to produce all the deliverables.
Typically, a PMP allocates responsibilities to different people involved in the project and establishes timeline-based milestones.
Here’s a project management plan template you can follow. This template lists all the deliverables divided across different stages of the project.
All deliverables map to the people working on it. Each deliverable also comes with a predefined timeline in terms of weeks.
5. Work breakdown structure
A work breakdown structure (WBS) divides the overall project scope into smaller milestones and visually presents this breakdown. It simplifies the team's workload by giving them concrete short-term tasks and deliverables to complete the project.
Think of a work breakdown structure as a step-by-step guidebook for any project. This simple diagram gives teams the recipe to produce the desired results without hiccups.
A WBS is a crucial part of project documentation to delegate responsibilities to all internal stakeholders and improve teamwork. Use this WBS template to get the most out of your resources in your next project.
6. Standard operating processes
A standard operating procedure (SOP) defines the best way to perform an action or task. Companies create org-wide and team-specific SOPs for all routine processes for higher consistency and improved employee productivity.
Similarly, project-specific SOPs play a huge role in standardizing all workflows, maintaining quality standards and simplifying knowledge transfer to new employees.
Creating SOPs has never been easier when you use Scribe, a tool designed to cut your documentation time and efforts by 90 percent. Scribe captures your screen and auto-generates interactive guides for any process, complete with annotated screenshots, media and text.
Here’s a Scribe on the customer onboarding SOP — simply effortless!
7. Project status report
A project status report documents the progress throughout the course of a project. Once the work is underway, teams might lose track if they don’t track their progress consistently. Status reports help you monitor the progress and stay ahead of any expected/unexpected delays. These reports also keep all stakeholders informed of the completed work.
A good status report clearly and briefly summarizes the updates on the project. You can include a list of deliverables completed and the agenda for the next update. Alternatively, you can talk about the progress on each task with any crucial comments.
Here’s a handy project status report template for recording your progress consistently.
8. Risk and issues log
A risk and issues log records any threats or problems you face while working on a project. It can be a standard spreadsheet where different team members can jot down challenges they're facing.
The log should have fields for priority level, owner and description of each challenge. You can make the log more comprehensive with details like open and close date, risk type, assigned to and solution offered. A good issues log tracks the progress of each challenge to prevent any further errors.
This Risk and issues project documentation template will help you track and resolve all issues in your projects.
9. Project budget tracker
A budget tracker is one of the most critical links in the chain. It saves you from overspending and promotes strategic decision-making for any expenses. What's more, tracking your budget shows where you've spent your money, so you're better prepared to plan the project's next phases.
You can manually track your project's budget through spreadsheets or automate the process using tools like Timely, Spendesk and TMetric.
10. Project closure
A project closure document officially closes the project with a detailed review of the results and deliverables. This document compares the expected objectives with the achieved outcomes to assess the project's success. It also summarizes all the lessons learned and targets accomplished throughout the project.
A closure document is critical to the project lifecycle. It’s an opportunity to deliver everything expected from you without any liability issues arising in the future.
Use this project closure template to create a hassle-free closing experience for all stakeholders and complete the project successfully.
5 project documentation best practices to maximize success
You're all set to start a massive project with your team — slightly nervous, slightly excited. But before starting with the actual work, you have to create a framework for documenting all the project details.
We’ve been there… this is where you blank out and don't know the next steps.
Thankfully, these five project documentation best practices will do the job for you.
1. Plan your project consistently
The most important thing to remember for any project is that documentation isn’t a one-and-done process.
It's a consistent requirement for every project phase. So, keep documenting your progress throughout the project in different formats, like work breakdown structure, SOPs, status reports and issue logs.
More importantly, you have to update your project documents regularly based on inputs and feedback from different stakeholders.
And If the end-users preferences differ from your original plans, make sure to change the deliverables and modify your documents accordingly.
2. Keep end-users in mind when writing
Most project documentation ignores the readers’ perspective. For instance, a long and jargon-filled status report makes it difficult for other stakeholders to understand and share their feedback.
So, when documenting any detail about the project, keep the end-users in mind and use reader-friendly language and presentation. It’s best to break down large chunks of text into shorter paragraphs and bullet points to improve the document’s scannability.
3. Create an audit and maintenance plan
To keep your documents updated at all times, design a workflow for constantly auditing and modifying all documents. Ideally, this involves a team-wide survey of 1:1 interviews with specific stakeholders to understand the documents’ accuracy and utility.
Carefully analyze feedback to chalk out the scope of improvement. Make relevant changes to ensure the documents align with the project goals.
4. Define version control processes
When you update your documents, tracking the old and new versions isn’t easy. Things become even more challenging when multiple people are involved in the documentation process.
A correctly laid out version control process streamlines the task of updating any document. It tracks and stores all the versions to display only the latest version for the end readers.
You can create version control guidelines on naming an updated document. Usual naming standards include:
- Decimals with numbers, like 2.0.
- Version names, like Beta and Omega.
- Alphanumeric codes, like v1, v1.1.
5. Use a project documentation tool.
Over the span of a project, you’ll probably realize that critical information is scattered all over your emails, meetings and chats.
A project documentation tool can curate all this information on a single platform and offer easy accessibility to everyone.
Here are a few project documentation software to consider:
- Notion: Create kanban boards, calendars and more to visualize your project documents entirely.
- Trello: Pick a template or create your custom boards and set up automations to track progress at every stage.
- Document360: Make complex and comprehensive documents with advanced features like a markdown editor, localization and WYSIWYG tools.
- Scribe: Simplify your documentation process and create interactive step-by-step instructions in a few seconds without any complex software.
Project-related information is constantly changing. Before you know it, it turns into too many documents scattered across platforms. A project management tool helps you organize all this information to create a single source of truth.
How to automate project documentation with Scribe
Scribe is a feature-packed documentation tool designed to reduce the time spent on administrative work, standardize processes, minimize errors and automate documentation processes.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to using Scribe for project documentation:
Step 1: Visit Scribe and sign up for a new account
Go to scribehow.com and sign up for an account if you haven't already. Signing up is easy—you'll get a few prompts to customize the tool. Here's how it goes:
Once you’ve created your account, sign in before the next steps.
Step 2: Download and install the Scribe browser extension
Download Scribe’s browser extension from the Chrome web store. Once downloaded, install and add it to your set of extensions.
Step 3: Click on the Scribe extension and start recording
You'll get this prompt to start recording when you click on the extension.
Here's the cool part: if there are Scribes already created for a platform you're using—Slack; in this screenshot, you'll get a list of all these Scribes for reference.
Step 4: Edit and customize your auto-generated Scribe
As soon as you stop recording, you’ll be redirected to an auto-generated Scribe with multiple customization options.
Here are a few things you can do to edit your Scribes:
- Edit steps and change the text.
- Add steps anywhere or merge two or more steps.
- Edit the images to make your own annotations (available in the Pro version).
- Add a Page with multiple Scribes and media.
Step 5: Share, embed or export your Scribe
When you’re done editing your Scribe, you have three options:
- Share it directly via email.
- Copy the embed code for smart embedding.
- Export it in any of the available formats.
You can also hit the Copy Link button to create a shareable link. Don’t forget to change the setting to Shareable with Link when you do this.
Want to know the best part? All of the steps we just showed you, we can document in half the time. Check out these step-by-step instructions that only took our Content Editor Lauren 30 seconds to make.
Document your project essentials seamlessly
Project documentation isn’t the most exciting part of a manager's responsibility — but it is important.
With so much information floating between stakeholders, it can seem overwhelming to put everything on paper and create comprehensive documents. But it doesn't have to be.
Our nine project documentation templates will make life easy for you. Use these templates to stay ahead of your team and document every detail for better coordination, fewer mistakes and greater efficiency.