Keeping documents organized and up-to-date is a challenge when many individuals are participating in a project together and all touching the same documents. Failure to save an updated file, accidental deletion and simple misplacement are regular occurrences in the life of a project. Besides having inaccurate or outdated files there is also the trouble of email inboxes overflowing with Excel sheets, expense reports and any other number of project documentation.
Managing a project can require a plethora of different types of documents for planning, tracking and reporting. Documents have a role in each phase of a project life cycle, helping to keep the project moving forward. On the same token, however, documents need managing themselves or they overtake the process they’re supposed to facilitate. As they guide their projects, project managers can easily fall into the trap of producing an overload of documents that cloud the project objectives with repetitive information, ultimately contributing to a project’s failure. Poorly managed documents can confuse the actual status of a project, create turmoil and frustrate those who want answers and those who need to deliver. Sound project document management determines whether information flows effectively through project teams and stakeholders or turns into barriers that cause projects to miss their milestones, or go over budget or scope.
When the documentation of a project is poorly managed it leads to:
- Opacity – Project managers, team members and stakeholders have an unclear picture of project statuses and related work. Project documents do not exchange relevant up-to-date information, creating redundancies and confusion.
- Loss of key information – Many project managers do not store their project documentation in a single place. Some files might be saved on the desktop, others on a server and some in storage software like Google Drive. The information in these documents can be lost or so difficult to access it might as well be lost. Lack of accurate data means incorrect information could end up in decision-making reports or shared with stakeholders.
- Hindered collaboration – Without data being stored in one central location that is accessible to project managers, proper resources and stakeholders it can be almost impossible to find, leading to collaboration taking a major hit. If resources are working on the same document but from two separate stages in the process, collaboration abilities will be obstructed.