Project documentation - what you should bear in mind
Documentation, documents and document management - what are the differences?
- creating, labelling and recording
- compressing, preparing and updating
- distributing, archiving and destroying of documents.
The role of document management is now to be able to provide any document required on any subject with reasonable effort. Document management is not responsible for the content, completeness and accuracy of a document.
All this can be very time-consuming and costly, but none of it should be neglected, because even the best memories of project staff can never compensate for missing, outdated and incomplete documents.
Project documentation requirements
The essential requirement for project documentation is to ensure high quality project work, and this is only possible if
- project members have access to relevant documents at all times,
- the documents reflect the current status
- the documents are easy to find, and
- the documents make the project steps and results understandable.
Project file for project documentation
The project file is the summary of the objectives and tasks, organisation and planning, plan update and documentation for the individual project. The project file ensures the quality of a project in terms of performance, time and cost.
Before project documents are released for use by team members, they must be reviewed and approved by authorised personnel for accuracy, completeness and appropriateness. A change history or document tracking procedure that identifies the revision status of documents prevents employees from using invalid or outdated documents. The resulting documentation and archiving provide evidence that effective project management is being carried out and that the project is meeting the requirements set out in the project file. In this way, the knowledge gained can be preserved and used as a basis for planning a similar project at a later date, or for setting up a new project team.
However, it is not only important to archive documents properly in order to be able to make the best use of the know-how and knowledge gained in the future, but also because there are so-called retention periods that must be set for all project documents by those responsible in the organisation. In addition, there are legal requirements that must be checked and complied with. The project management must also make the project documents available to the client or its representative for evaluation for an agreed period of time, if this is contractually agreed.
The project specific document centre
- Create, implement and apply a single, consistent label for all project documents.
- Register all project documents with document management data (e.g. creator, creation date, distribution list, version, cause and date of change).
- Monitor change management and systematically distribute approved change documents.
- Establish and maintain a filing system (documents can only be considered project binding if they are available in the document centre).
- Produce handover documentation for project transferees (e.g. customer department) and own maintenance units.
However, the document centre is not responsible for the completeness and timeliness of the document content.
Labelling and registration of project documents
The identification of document types must include codes for classic (paper) documents (e.g. circuit diagrams, contracts, logs) as well as for file names (e.g. CAD, graphics, text and spreadsheet files). Like most object keys, these key systems are structured hierarchically.
Document identification systems usually follow the same pattern: they separate minimum and additional identifiers. This means that the minimum identifier contains identifiers for the project (e.g. cost unit number or project name), the document content (e.g. object identifier from the work breakdown structure) and the document type (e.g. drawing type, inspection record). The minimum identifier makes it easy to find the document you are looking for. The additional identifiers concern, for example, the document creator, creation date, distribution list, version, status, reason for change and change approval, and other applicable documents.
The minimum identifier should be defined as the project's own and parent identifier, especially in projects with external suppliers. The customer or project sponsor should have the final say, as they will have to work with the identifier until the end of the project's life. In order to be able to correspond with the project contractor's suppliers regarding maintenance, repairs and reordering of spare parts, the project contractor must not only hand over an inventory list of all documents handed over with the project documentation, but also provide this list with the original identifiers of the subcontractors' documents.
A simple, effective tool for determining document requirements during project execution and for preparing handover documentation is a document requirements matrix. It is based on the axes of document content and document type. This matrix can be part of the appendix of a project contract, as it standardises the work processes and the resulting documents in projects with a repetitive character.