Project Documentation: Examples and Templates

Learn how to keep your project documentation organized and up-to-date with simple best practices.

Project documentation is a vital part of project management. It's also every project manager's least favorite task.

"We have no time for this right now."

"We're doing Agile."

"No one reads that stuff."

It may seem tedious, but comprehensive documentation is what can make the difference between the success and failure of your project. Let's dive deeper into what project documentation actually is and why it's worth your time.

What is project documentation?

Project documentation is the process of recording the key project details and producing the documents that are required to implement it successfully. Simply put, it's an umbrella term which includes all the documents created over the course of the project.

Project documents come in many forms – from project proposals and business cases, to project plans and project status reports.

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Examples of project documents

It's difficult to strictly define what should be documented over the course of a project, as it's strongly dependent on the kind of project you are managing. A major project at a big enterprise usually requires a lot more paperwork than a small-scale initiative at an early-stage startup.

But some basic documents are needed in most cases. Here are five project document examples that your project will likely require.

Project proposal

A project proposal is written to initiate a project – it's the first step in the project management process. The goal of this document is to convince the decision-makers and stakeholders that the idea behind the project is worth pursuing. A project proposal needs to outline the project's core value proposition, which is often done in the form of a business case.

Project document example

Project charter

A project charter is another key project documentation example. This document lays the foundation for the project by covering the high-level project planning. It needs to outline how the business goals of the project will be achieved by explaining the key requirements, budget, tasks, roles, and responsiblities of the project. It’s the first document you write after your project proposal is formally approved.

Project plan

After the high-level planning is complete, the project manager creates a more detailed project plan. It serves as a roadmap for the project, defining the key project milestones and placing them on a timeline. This document evolves together with the project, capturing all changes and decisions and facilitating communication among project stakeholders.

Project status report

Depending on the scope of your project and the size of our team, keeping everyone up-to-date may become difficult. Project status reports are written to keep all project stakeholders – both internal and external – on the same page. These documents usually contain an overview of the progress you've made so far and the next steps you are planning to take.

Project retrospective

Every project is a learning opportunity. What went well? What could be improved next time? After you conclude the project, sit together with your team and do a project retrospective. Document your lessons learned in a separate document and use it as a reference for your next project.

Other project document examples

This was by no means an exhaustive list. Some large-scale projects require hundreds of separate documents and forms, while smaller projects tend to simplify and combine them.

Depending on the type of project you are planning to undertake, you may want to additionally create some of the following project documents:

The value of project documentation

The first and perhaps the most important reason why you should document your project is simple – writing things down forces you to think through your idea and to verify if it actually makes sense. It also makes your project much easier to manage by helping your team to:

But it can also create long-term benefits for your organization even after the project is concluded:

But in order to deliver on these goals, your internal documentation needs to be well-written, accurate, and up-to-date. In this guide, we will cover the tools and best practices you can use to improve the quality of your project documentation.

Choosing the right documentation software

There are many different tools you can use to document a project – Google Docs, Confluence (and a variety of Confluence alternatives), different types of internal wikis and knowledge bases, and more.

Depending on the size of your team and your approach to project management, your requirements may differ. Some teams need complex solutions with advanced features, such as built-in approval workflows and automated tasks, while others prefer simpler and easier tools with no learning curve. Whatever tool you choose, make sure all project stakeholders know how to use it.

In any case, an ideal project documentation tool should:

One such tool is Nuclino. It works like a collective brain, allowing you to bring all your team's knowledge, docs, and projects together in one place – create an account and give it a try:

Project documentation software

How to document a project

Part of what makes project documentation seem so frustrating – and even useless – is that the finished documents are often not read by anyone. Documentation is created only because it's what you're expected to do, and then immediately forgotten and discarded.

There are a few ways to ensure that the time you invest in documenting your project is not wasted:

Organize all project documentation in one place

Project-related communication tends to scatter across meetings, chat, email, and shared drives, leaving your team without a single source of truth. Instead, bring all project-related documents together in one place and don't waste time hunting through outdated Confluence pages or stale emails.

Organized project documentation

Make it easy to access and search

The easier you make it for people to find the information they need, the more likely they will be to read the documentation. Make sure your documentation tool is equipped with a reliable and fast search feature.

Keep it lightweight

While it's important to keep your project documentaion thorough, it also needs to be concise. No one will bother reading pages and pages of text – write down what you need and only what you need, with a clear purpose and audience in mind. Follow the rules of Agile documentation.

Collaboratively maintain it

Don't rush to laminate your project documents. As your project evolves and progresses, many key details may change, and your documentation needs to keep up. Create living documentation and give stakeholders access to share feedback, ask questions, and update it as needed.

Collaborate on project documentation

Project documentation template

Every project is different and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to project documentation. But this simple one-page project documentation template can be a good starting point.

As your project evolves and your documentation becomes more detailed, you may want to split it into separate documents to keep things more organized.

Project documentation template
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