5 Fundamental Documents for a Project

A good project manager keeps good documentation. That person organizes project documentation in a way that ensures easy and authorized access to document creation, editing and archiving. But how to know which documents to develop and keep within a project? In this article I’m going to list top 5 documents that you, as a great project manager, must keep organized.

The most important project documents are as follows:

  1. Project Charter
  2. Working Schedule
  3. Status Report
  4. Risk Register
  5. Communication Management Plan

1. Project Charter

The Project Charter is the fundamental document that is created at the initiation (conceptualization) stage of a project. This document approves project launch and tells the project manager that it is time to begin team building and work planning activities.

The Project Charter determines the following items:

  • Reason(s) why start the project
  • Business objectives to be attained
  • Benefits to be gained
  • Boundaries and assumptions (which will be analyzed and specified later during the project planning phase)
  • Potential risks and opportunities
  • High-level budget
  • Authorities

The Project Charter serves as the basis for a project plan. This fundamental document states the original intent of work and helps management teams ensure the project does not fall into scope creep. It is a guide for project managers on what goals to complete with what resources and authorities and under what expectations

2. Working Schedule

This must-have document defines the beginning and end of project work and breaks it down into stages, activities and tasks. Each task has a time-frame (duration), resource, and dependency upon other tasks. The schedule serves as the baseline for managing target dates and making adjustments to the project plan.

3. Status Report

This fundamental document keeps everyone informed of how work is being progressed at any given point in time. A status report helps understand the following:

  • What accomplishments are got since the last report?
  • When is the next report on the project to be generated?
  • What are the issues and risks to solve at a given stage?
  • Are there any special needs that must be discussed?

4. Risk Register

Any project comes up with a portion of risk. And that’s why a risk register needs to be created for the project in order to ensure that every possible risk is identified and analyzed and that a response strategy is developed.

The risk register categorizes risks by probability of occurring and also determines the severity of their impact on work results. This fundamental document also refers to action plans that prevent registered risks from occurring.

5. Communications Management Plan

A communications management plan minimizes any misunderstandings between project participants and ensures that information is distributed to right people at right time.

This fundamental document is subsidiary to the project plan. It is developed during the planning stage.