I ask two questions I ask before beginning any project:
- Have you done anything like this before?
- Do you have any documentation from that time?
If the answer to both is yes, I’ll then ask for the following:
- All status reports from the project
- All project presentations
- The project budget – initial and final + any baselines if they exist
- Any project plans – initial and final + any baselines if they exist
- Lessons learned from the last project
- Standards of practice / policies
- For processes impacted by the project
- For project management within the organization
- End-user training and support materials
- Vendor documents for the new application(s)
- Contracts / statements of work from the last project
- Here, I want to see who they worked with and what roles external contractors needed to fill
- Anything else they feel is pertinent. I’ll also warn them I may be coming back for more 🙂
My bias towards written documentation reflects my graduate education in History and a preference towards being able to review and analyze information without distraction.
Once I get a chance to review everything, I can start asking questions to gain more context and confirm some of the biases I might find.
Project planning goes more smoothly when I can see what happened the last time.
I have also found over the years that by having this documentation – the project team does not have to re-invent everything.
This is not to say that the project has to create the same level of documentation during project execution.
During project execution – I am looking to develop just enough documentation to
- Communicate and implement the change among the end users in a format that is easily consumable by the end users and editable by the support team
- Provide enough project history for the next time the organization has to do something similar.
I ask the project team to develop all documents with the assumption that everyone on the project team wins the multi-gazillion dollar lottery and will not be around to answer questions.
None of this has to be fancy or pretty.
Just in time, just enough.
I’ve written about this before: