5 Project Documentation Mistakes Experienced Teams Still Make

Projects can involve huge volumes of documentation and related information. Budget forecasts, progress updates, schematics, and contracts are just some of the data elements flowing through a typical initiative. Managing all that information requires a deliberate plan, but some project teams continue to use documentation strategies that went out of date long ago. That means the wider shift to digital tools and growing use of cloud-based data repositories may not be part of your group’s plans. If you haven’t taken a fresh look at your approach to documentation management in a while, here are 5 mistakes your team might still be making.

Project documentation mistakes

1 – Ignoring your organization’s document retention schedule.

Short-term access, long-term archival, and the eventual destruction of your project documentation should typically follow the document retention schedule set out by your company. However, it’s important to confirm how the guidelines apply to your initiative’s data because other factors could reduce or extend your document retention requirements. Reach out to your records department, the compliance team, or your legal counsel to determine how the retention schedule applies to each type of data used in or generated by your project.

2 – Not understanding your documentation formats.

Teams can run into serious trouble if their project documents aren’t available in formats that are easily shared with stakeholders, transferred to different systems for processing or analysis, or extracted for storage. Before choosing platforms for your project documentation, research the formats and data structures to ensure you can continue leveraging the documents in future projects and post-project reviews. You may need to reformat information to facilitate easier archival, for example, or to feed into newer systems for ongoing use.

3 – Failing to back up project documents.

With so much critical information housed across multiple platforms within your technology stack, redundancy is crucial. First, you need a way to save backups in a secure location. That often means keeping data in the cloud, but don’t assume your platforms will automatically make backups that are suitable for restoration. Once you’ve worked with your solution providers to create a backup schedule that suits your needs, the next step is to test your plan to be sure you can quickly download and restore your saved files in case you need them later.

4 – Forgetting to capture vendor-generated documentation.

Most project collaborators create their own data related to each initiative, and unless you’re diligent in adding everything to your overall documentation management strategy while initiatives are active, you could lose the ability to store data once the project is complete. Address this mistake by implementing a shared location to keep master documentation as soon as it’s created. This enables easy access during the project’s active phases and makes longer-term storage a snap, no matter where the information originated.

5 – Abandoning documentation once the project wraps.

A comprehensive documentation management strategy loses its value if you don’t make use of your project data later. Heavy workloads and aggressive initiative timelines leave little time for reflection, but your team should still review documents from past projects to spot trends and understand how project outcomes have changed over time. As your data library grows, periodic lookbacks can be beneficial in other ways, too. Historical data can guide you to better project performance, increased cost savings, improved productivity, and less waste. Instead of abandoning documentation once the project is complete, create formal workflows to include a review prior to the launch of a new project as a way to compare costs and other metrics, and to identify potential problems for which your team has already developed a solution.


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