project management documents

Top 7 Essential documents for Project Management Success

Project Managers cannot afford to ignore documentation. Though of late, with the industry adopting Agile methodology, there is a misconception that documentation has to be completely ignored. Particularly Project Managers must be more diligent with documentation than before. This article will talk about the 7 essential documents for a Project Manager given a standard Project on hand. General guidelines for good Project documentation are:

  • Documentation should be clear in conveying the data that the subscriber requires to understand.
  • Documentation should be relevant to what the context is about and must be crisp.
  • Information in the documentation must be update at the time of writing.

We provide on-demand PMP Certification Online Training to help you stay up-to-date with the latest project management techniques. Whether it’s a 35-hour course or a live webinar, We have what you need for your career growth. Let us split the Project Management into 5 class process groups and identify the essential project documents.

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitor
  • Closure
5 classes of process groups

Now let us look at these documents one by one.

Project Charter

A Project Charter is a formal, short project document (most of the cases) that describes the project in brief. The document includes the Project objectives, how they will be achieved, and who the impacted stakeholders are. It is an important input for Project Planning because it has the basic inputs to start with. A typical Project Charter consist of the following sections:

Project Charter
  • Project Goals and Objectives
  • A Project Constraints
  • Project Stakeholders (Initial)
  • High Level Risks
  • Project Benefits
  • Budget and milestones

Image: Microsoft

A Project Charter is typically one of the earliest artifacts to be created in the lifecycle of the Project.

Statement of work

The Statement of Work (SoW) is easily one of the most critical because it is typically brought into the picture at the start of a project and summarizes everything that needs to go. It is one of the first documents you will create to sketch the entire project landscape before you plan and start executing.

A typical Project Charter consist of the following sections:

Statement of work
  • Project Scope
  • Project Location (Onsite/Remote)
  • Milestones and Deliverables
  • Cost and Payment Schedule
  • Project Schedule
  • Success Criteria

Image: Microsoft

This is also an important project management artifact that outlines a project’s work requirements. It gives a high-level expectation on timelines, services delivered through the project, the activities involved, deliverables, and targeted budget. It also happens to be one of the first documents to be published in the lifecycle of a project and acts as a formal or informal contract, depending on how we choose.

Project Management Plan

It is a formally approved project document that is used to control the execution of the project. This documented plan the actions required to initiate, prepare, converge, and orchestrate the various planning activities. This document clearly defines how the project is executed, monitored and controlled, and closed. A Project Management Plan has further subsidiary plans underneath it, like below:

Ideas for Project Management plan
  • Scope Management Plan
  • Requirements Management Plan
  • Cost Management Plan
  • Quality Management Plan
  • HR Management Plan
  • Communication Management Plan
  • Stakeholder Management Plan
  • Risk Management Plan

Image: Microsoft

The primary purpose of this Project document is to provide a comprehensive plan of what objectives have to be achieved through the project, action items to solve it, means to measure and report the project, how the information will be communicated, and importantly, who will be targeted.

Risk Register Document

We will need a risk register to identify, log, and track potential project risks. Any event or an activity that can positively or negatively affect your Project can be called a Risk. A risk register is nothing but a collection of project risks that allows you to track each identified risk and any important attributes about it. Almost for all the projects, creating and maintaining the risk register is given to the project manager.

Standard data attributes you can find in a Risk Register are:

  • Risk Description
  • Risk Category (Internal/External etc,)
  • Probability (Likelihood of occurrence)
  • Impact
  • Priority
  • Action/Response (Mitigate or Avoid)
  • Assignee

Image: Microsoft

Your Project would need a risk register as projects get larger, longer, and more complex; it will be more difficult to keep on top of uncertainties in the Project. If risks are not in track, at the central location and reviewed regularly, that would impact the Project commitments.

EV Analysis

Earned Value Analysis (EVA) is a method in project management for monitoring and controlling purposes. It helps in measuring project progress. The EV analysis compares the actual work completed at a given time with the original baselined budget and schedule of the Project. The EV analysis also forecasts the final budget and schedule by the time the project ends. It gives you the critical early warning signal that things are deviating from the plan. These are some steps to performing earned value analysis effectively:

EV Analysis
  • Determine the percent complete of each task.
  • To Determine Planned Value (PV)
  • Determine Earned Value (EV)
  • Obtain Actual Cost (AC)
  • Calculate Schedule Variance (SV)
  • Calculate Cost Variance (CV)

Image: Microsoft

Since, The purpose of the earned value analysis is to support and facilitate the control cost process. The outcome of the EV Analysis is for Earned Value Management (EVM), which is done in order to analyze variances and forecasts based on the results of EV Analysis. Hence Earned Value Management is a technique for evaluating project performance rationally and, EVM technique primarily deals with the measurement of Costs, Project Schedule, and Project scope by comparing that against the project’s baseline.


A Gantt chart happens to be a progress-based chart that provides a rational view of project tasks scheduled over the Project timeline. It helps in project planning and is a useful way of showing what work schedule at a specific time. It helps project managers and team members view the project timeline’s beginning dates, end dates, and important milestones in a simple set of stacked bars.

GANNT Chart Paper
  • Timeline of the project.
  • List of Project Tasks.
  • Resources assigned to each task.
  • Timeline of each task.
  • Duration of each task.
  • How tasks group together and overlap.
  • Task dependencies and milestones.

Image: Microsoft

It is a project management report which helps in the planning and scheduling of projects. The Project schedule and planned tasks are helpful as a stack of horizontal bars spanning the respective timeline.

Lessons Learned

It is a project document to store knowledge obtained during a project so that it requires in the current project and for future projects.

Officially scheduled “lessons learned” sessions are normally held during the close project phase, near the completion of the project. But lessons learned may be documented and recorded at any time during the project’s life cycle. That will be a better practice.

Lessons Learned management involves five steps:

Lessons Learned in PMP
  • Identify
  • Document
  • Analyse
  • Store
  • Retrieve

Image: Microsoft


Project documentation is an important part of managing Projects. Maintaining relevant project documentation is without a doubt a required element in Project Management. It is also very useful in keeping projects moving at a regular pace. Hence it ensures that stakeholders are up to date with the latest information. This, in turn, helps the organization in delivering more efficiently for future projects.

Janakiram SD

Janakiram is a PMI-ATP-PMP Instructor from Techcanvass Academy with over 15+ years of experience in the Software Industry including roles such as Project Manager, Engineering Manager, Development Manager and Delivery Manager. He has end to end experience in successfully delivering projects on both Predictive and Adaptive (Agile) approaches. Started his career as a Microsoft Stack Developer and has developed solutions encompassing various technologies like Web applications, Windows applications, Database design and development, Cloud based development. He is certified on PMP (PMI), CSM (Scrum Alliance), MCSD (Microsoft)

View all posts by Janakiram SD →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *