Practical Principles for Project Document Management

  • from

Image of person sitting behind a towering stack of papers punctuating the need for project document management.

Can project value and success be measured by the sheer weight and volume of documents produced?  Of course not, but documentation does matter.  By design, projects produce and depend on multiple deliverables, all of which become part of the "project record".   This record must be managed - both for the current project and for future reference.  Read on to learn how it's done.

Project documentation provides the means by which information and ideas are created and shared, and it is the basis upon which decisions are made and approved. It can be said that "if it’s real, it’s documented", and in fact all key project elements are documented in at least one or more essential documents, ranging from the statement of work, through to the weekly status report. As such, project document management may not be particularly glamorous, but it is a key factor of project success.

Project Document Management in Practice

Project document management ("doc-man") is defined by the practices and procedures used to create, distribute and store various types of project documentation. On a global level, document management practices are designed to fill the following goals and objectives:

  • To provide a mechanism for document production and control without adding substantial process overhead.
  • To provide standardized formats and templates for document production.
  • To promote collaboration and consensus through a structured process for document review and approval.
  • To facilitate document retrieval and accessibility.
  • To minimize documentation errors through version control and secured access.
  • To ensure that all documents are current and that distribution is timely.

At the end of the day, the ability to quickly and easily process and manage all types of project documents is essential to ensure a consistent flow of information to all project stakeholders.  Project documents represent the body of facts, analysis, conclusions and decisions made throughout the project lifecycle, including the project Business Case, Statement of Work, Governance Plans, Status Reports, Project Job Profiles, and the multitude of subject matter documents (unique to a given project).  These documents must be treated with respect, managed through standards that address production, distribution and retention needs.

Treat Project Documents with Respect and Care

The following listing provides a quick view of simple guidelines to be set for a consistent, standardized approach to managing project documents.

  • Create a relevant organizational structure for your document folders/directories. (using project, team, document type, version, status [draft or final] to form the structure).
  • Establish meaningful naming conventions considering project name, document type, version, author and any other valid organizational criteria. Naming conventions should provide for easy access and sorting of stored documents (i.e. for quick identification).
  • Use workgroup/folder/directory rights to assign realistic access rules to determine who can create, read, update and remove documents stored in the repository.
  • Create rules for document retention, purging and backup to keep documents current and remove unnecessary documents from the repository (i.e. interim versions offering no audit trail or reference value).
  • Follow standards for how documents are to be produced covering formats, data collection, draft production, review, revision, approvals, and version control.

Analyzing "Doc-Man" Needs and Capabilities

The first step to realize all of the time-saving benefits of standardized project document management is to ensure that adopted practices are appropriately "defined, aligned and approved" according to the needs and capabilities of individual projects. These are the questions that must be considered as part of this planning effort:

  1. What types of documents do your projects require? (considering business case documents, project initiation documents, project plans, contracts, policy documents, work specifications, technical documents, forms and reports).
  2. What purpose will each document serve within the project and the project management process?
  3. How and when are these various documents be used within the project process?
  4. Who will have input into these documents?
  5. Who will need access to these documents?
  6. How do these needs and requirements apply to projects of different sizes, complexity and visibility?  (Also Read: Understanding Project Sizing)

Work Smarter

Even under the best of circumstances, management is a challenge. When you learn to fast track, you’ll learn to work smarter, not harder. And that’s the value of every lesson, resource and template available at Fast Track Manage Learning. We teach you how to fast track your way to successful projects, committees and more. Learn More

Source: Unless noted otherwise, all content is created by and for

About Us

Right Track Logo staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management. is part of Right Track Associates, proprietors and publishers of multiple web sites including, Fast Track Manage, HOA Board List and more. We started in 2001 and have continued to grow our web site portfolio, Toolkit products, and related data services. To learn more, visit us at Right Track Associates.

Stay Informed

Useful information without inbox overload.

we do not sell our list

subscribe now
I.T. Service Planning The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The IT Service Strategy Toolkit teaches you how to fast track IT service planning using the time-saving “service strategy process”. The goals are simple... to manage IT departments, services and projects in a common-sense manner, to align business and technology, and realize maximum value, acceptance, and utilization - all at the lowest overhead costs. It’s all about adding value, in less time and with greater success. Get lifetime access to a growing IT service curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Committee Management The Project Committee Toolkit Start For Free

The Project Committee Toolkit teaches you how to manage successful committees using the "committee concept" process. Committees are one of the most effective ways to organize, deliberate and make decisions. But too often, committee success is hampered by conflict and bureaucracy. When you follow the committee concept process, you’ll learn to avoid these pitfalls and ensure that your committees are properly formed, managed and staffed. Get lifetime access to a growing committee management curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Project Management The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The Fast Track Project Toolkit teaches you how to deliver on-time, on-plan projects using "strategic project fast tracking". The fast track approach is a time-saving methodology, designed specifically for "real world" project circumstances - when you are being asked to do more than time and resources may allow. Fast tracking is the way to work around these obstacles and deliver prioritized results. Get lifetime access to a growing project planning curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.