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The larger the project, the more rigor and structure is needed to manage documents. You can end up with a big mess trying to save and find documents if you do not think through a good document management plan ahead of time. The following areas should be considered part of an overall document management plan.
- Determine where to store documents. The project team should have a common area, or repository, for storing documents. This could be in a file directory, SharePoint site, paper file cabinet, etc. The project manager should be sure that documents are not stored in multiple locations based on the preference of each team member.
- Determine the types of documents to include. The team also needs to determine the types of documents that will be added to the document repository. It is possible that the repository can hold every document in every stage of completion, including drafts and documents in each team member’s work area. However, it is also common for each team member to have a work area for his own documents and for the document repository to only hold final, approved deliverables.
- Define am organization structure. Once you know where you will store documents, you should also determine the directory or folder structure. This will provide guidance to team members on the specific locations to store documents and will likewise help the team find documents when they are needed.
- Define naming standards. It can be hard to find documents even if you have a good organizational structure. A common document naming standard will make it easier. Although this exercise might seem tedious, having a common naming standard for related documents will be very valuable as your project team generates hundreds of documents over time.
- Determine if some documents need versioning. The project manager should determine whether multiple versions of documents will be saved or if just the latest version will be saved. Many documents, such as the Project Charter, should have all approved versions saved. On the other hand, documents such as the Issue Log only have a current version.
- Determine if (and how) you will track document approval status. When documents need to be approved, and especially if the approval process can be lengthy, it is important to signify the document approval status. For instance, it is important to know whether a deliverable you are reading is a final approved version or a draft. Having separate libraries for documents as they go through the approval process can do this. Typical document indicators are “draft”, “work in-progress” and “final”.
- Define standard document formats. It is easier in the long run to read and create documents if they all follow a standard format such as font style and font size. In addition, the team can create standard headers and footers, cover pages and table of contents. This will give all the documentation a standard look and feel.
Think about document management ahead of time on large projects. It will save you a lot of extra work and aggravation one the project starts.