The importance of keeping project documents organized hit home when I was unexpectedly hospitalized a month before the birth of my daughter. I left one day at 5:00 and didn’t return again for four months! Several of my co-workers had to jump in and take over at a moment’s notice and I’ve tried to keep the knowledge that things can change at a moment’s notice in the back of my mind as I’ve managed projects ever since. Document organization is vital no matter the size of training company or training development group you work in.
Hopefully nothing this dramatic will happen again, but often small changes occur over the life of a project. This can be any number of things from the addition of a new and influential stakeholder, a key project member taking another position, or a change in technical specification that causes more re-work than expected.
If any of these changes result in a need to recreate the project evolution, it’s invaluable to be able to easily locate and share approvals, documented decisions, and scope changes. Even having a record of consistent communication such as status reports and meeting notes, can help shed light on a dispute that comes up later in the project lifecycle.
Amidst all our day to day project responsibilities, it can be hard to find time to document the actions and decisions made in an unexpected phone call or meeting. A few things that I’ve found help keep me organized:
1. Save key email messages on a common drive or network so others can access them if needed. This includes meeting recaps, interim approvals, responses to content or design questions that come up outside the deliverable process, or consultation explaining a recommended approach.
2. Take notes on a tablet or laptop during calls so you can easily share with the team afterward.
3. If you’re like me and end up with a lot of half-finished thoughts in your notes when you’re participating in the call and trying to take notes, schedule time on your calendar after each meeting to complete your notes and document action items when things are still fresh in your mind.
4. Keep the percent complete next to each task in your project plan current so anyone opening your plan can easily see what step(s) you’re currently working on.
5. Establish a consistent folder structure that you use across all of your projects so you always know where to save and later find documents that all projects have in common such as the SOW, invoicing schedule, project plan, status reports, etc.
6. Label documents with a descriptive title and date so you can click through them in chronological order to see the evolution of the project.
What tips do you have for keeping your projects documented and organized?