5 Golden Rules for Writing Good Project Documentation

Projects produce a lot of documents, whether it’s a statement or business case, or project requirements. It falls to the project manager or to coordinate and produce most of them.
Documents are used primarily for communication: ups to senior managers, sideways and project stakeholders, and downs to members of the project team who are responsible for delivering it.
Documents are essential for successful projects. I can’t afford to lose them and neither would you. They serve a purpose, provided they are clear, concise and easy to use.
These golden rules will help you to make the task of writing the next document for your project a little easier if you are afraid.
This article:
1. Version control Basics
Using version control numbers in documents

2. Centralize your filesChoosing the right storage solution
Local storage for meetings is the exception

3. Documents to be circulated for commentSet up an approbation process
Note on external comms

4. Keep documents short

5. Use executive summaries
Creating effective project documentation

1. Use version control
Version control is my number one tip for dealing with key documents. Although this is simple, I am still amazed at how many people fail to do it.
What do you do when you create a document from scratch, then send it to someone for comments and then add a bit more yourself. Then someone tells you an interesting fact which you add into your inbox and suddenly you have 13 versions of the same document? Version control is essential.
Version control basics
Version 0.1 is the first version of the document that you create. You change the version number to 0.0.2 when you revise it. And so on. You must then get the document approved and approved by the relevant persons so that you have a final copy. This is version 1.0.
The final version is not always final. There will be someone who wants a change or a formal project change. It becomes version 1.1 if it is a minor change to the document. If it is a major change, rename it 2.0.
I have never had to count more than 7 times in my years of using version control. It’s not difficult.
Learn how to control document versions in my detailed guide.
Using version control numbers in documents
Practically, I used a table on the first page of a document that listed the date and version number. This was fine for paper documents but we no longer use paper as much. This means that you will need to open the file to see which version number is available.
It is better to include the version number in a file name (like Project Spaghetti PID_v1.3.docx). This allows everyone to see what version is available at a glance and eliminates the need to open files to discover that something is out of date.
If you stick to a standard method of naming your files, you can sort them in Windows Explorer folder views (or whatever operating system) by name. The most recent version should appear at the top.
2. Centralize your files
Next, organize your storage.
If you’ve ever been in a meeting where someone asked for the latest something-report you will know that it is extremely inconvenient to not have it stored somewhere. There are very few reasons to not have central storage of files. Central storage of project documents allows everyone to view the same versions and has access to the files.
Password protect the files to prevent others from saving the originals and changing them.