Project Documents; the Good, the Bad and the Boring

Writing project documents isn’t the sexiest way to spend your day. It takes time, isn’t all that stimulating while at it and in general you’re not creating anything visible and virtually touchable (which is a paradox in itself).

Yet project documents like Project Outlines, Flow Charts and Wireframes are the backbone of a project. They are of vital importance to keep a project organised and to keep the end of the project on – and not beyond – the horizon. These documents show every single person in a project what they are working towards, when they are working towards it and how much progress they have relatively made.

Now those first two sentences were ofcourse much like taking a battering ram through an open door. I could almost put on some Captain Obvious tights and run around the city screaming that the world is round and the sun rises every morning.

But especially in environments with a lot of creative, young minds, these documents get forgotten, or not correctly put together. This leads to situations where the documents which explain the scope of a project aren’t viewed as mini-bibles, but more as ways to keep the table in a level position.

In which way can you take on this situation, and form these mini-bibles? A common situation between these young, creative minds in a start-up is the amount of meetings and time taken to talk about new ideas and brainstorm about new ways of taking on certain issues. Taking on a project always implies numerous meetings to talk about cool ways of working out the wishes of the client or the features of a product.

There needs to be a form of discipline in these situations. Yet this form of discipline shouldn’t be a constant factor chasing everyone around. This form of discipline should be compacted into a short time-frame and referenced to throughout the project. When starting a project, group all the people relevant to the project together.

Start out with a brainstorm, take notes on everything and mark which notes are of importance. After brainstorming, take a ten minute break. Everyone should do something to take their mind off of the project. They should surf the web, check their e-mail or do something else irrelevant to the project, the company and the people working at the company. After these ten minutes, get back together and start creating a detailed outline for documents. In this situation, everyone is still on the same page and can express their opinion on all matters that are relevant to the project. At the end of this process there is an outline and a document with details relevant to the project.

One or two people take on this outline and these notes and create project documents out of it. When this is done, everyone gets a draft. After reading the drafts, these people take on another meeting (max. 20 minutes) to run through the draft and express their opinions on details in the document. Relevant notes about the draft get written down and processed into the final documents.

Everyone on the team gets a print of the final documents. These final documents are now the common ground between everyone working on a project. The ground has been cleared and the foundation has been placed. The project can now be built with strong confidence.