How to do project management with less paperwork

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Every person out there can agree that project management processes are essential to the success of a project. Documentation is, naturally, a critical part of this process. However, what takes place when this ever-increasing wave of paperwork gets to a dangerous level and begins to start seriously impacting on the actual delivery of the project?

The process of project management is a service that is required to be offered for all but the tiniest project. The curse of the inexpert project manager is that he or she has the belief that his or her aim is to bombard the customer as well as the project team with heaps of paperwork which is to a small rain forest.

At times, the logic is that if you pass sufficient paper and/or emails around, not a single person will take the time to read them. Often it is the argument that every agreement, action or discussion generates yet another piece of correspondence which goes unread until it really comes down to the wire and everyone begins to examine the project file and are looking for the get-out clause of an email which gives the message “I told you so”.

The real purpose behind project management

This is not what the product manager should be doing. Project management can be conceived as an integral part of your customer services team. In fact, no one will ever get closer to your customer as well as  their business than during the course of a project.

If your project manager can give up the pen and email, they can become a communication intermediary between you and your customers as opposed to a bureaucratic blockage. As soon as this is understood and comprehended the project manager can then speak with the customer as often as possible as well as with the team only when necessary. This allows the developers to keep developing as well as maintaining the customer relationship.

Of course, project management does necessitate the production of some paperwork. This does include some information which can be used for protection when there is a problem encountered. Don’t forget that there is always the risk of failure in addition to the potential for things to end in litigation.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, there are a couple of tips that you can follow.

Choose the correct process

Each and every project is different. This means that choosing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ process, no matter the size of the project is, just doesn’t make sense.

For smaller projects, use a simpler process, particularly if you’ve entrusted a tinier project to project managers who are  inexperienced. A simpler process requires less documentation (and is super easy to follow for rookie project managers or even project managers who are experienced  and have many other paperwork-heavy projects on their list of things to do).

Smaller projects (as a minimum) could theoretically only require:

  • A Project Initiation Document: This (once more as a minimum) would include the purpose; objectives; key requirements involving scope, time and cost; significant milestones (if known at that stage) in addition to a list of project team members.
  • A log of stakeholder needs: This should only comprise the list of stakeholders as well as their requirements.
  • A Project Scope: This is a clear-cut list of the deliverables. As opposed to creating an individual Work Breakdown Structure, it is possible to just break down the deliverables in the scope for ease in addition to simplicity.
  • A schedule: This is a list of the tasks, how long these will take, the most important milestones as well as the end date. A Gantt chart is ideal for this.
  • A retrospective report: This type of report may seem to be counter-intuitive. Having a distinctive view of what went well in addition to what could have been better will ensure that your future projects run more smoothly. In addition, projects which run more smoothly will generally demand decreased levels of paperwork.

Of course, all of the above depends on the circumstances of your specific project. It is possible that you may initially think that your specific project requires one or two other pieces of documentation. However when making this decision, it is worth stepping back first and asking if is this really necessary for a project this magnitude.

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