It’s important for the project manager to recognize the
stages that a document must go through from creation to completion. This
knowledge allows the project manager to understand the overall status of a
document at any given time and helps ensure adequate time is allocated on the workplan for the completion of the document.

Here is why it’s important: When a team member says he can
complete a document in two weeks, for instance, is he saying that the document
will be ready to circulate in two weeks or that the document will be completed
and totally approved in two weeks? Not all documents need to go through all the
stages of document creation and approval. However, depending on the document,
one or more of these steps will be required:

  • Preparation.
    Sometimes you can sit down and just start writing your document. Other
    times you need to prepare and plan. This is especially true as your
    document gets larger and more complex. In many cases you’re not able to
    start writing because you don’t have your thoughts structured. Preparation
    and planning, which includes outlining the content and structuring the
    sections, will help you get started.
  • Initial
    Document Creation. In this step, the document draft is created initially.
    Most of the effort associated with creating a document is in this step.
    Subsequent steps may take a long duration, but they don’t take nearly as
    much effort.
  • Feedback
    and Modification (Iterative). These two steps involve circulating the
    document for initial review and feedback. The document is updated based on
    the review comments. Depending on the particular document, this may be an
    iterative step. A document may have an internal review, followed by a
    stakeholder review, followed by a management review. After each of these
    reviews, the document is subsequently modified based in the feedback and
    sent to the next step.
  • Approval.
    When the document has been circulated for feedback and subsequently
    updated, it will be ready for final approval. Some documents should be
    formally approved in writing. Others are simply considered complete after
    the final round of feedback is received.

You might be surprised to read the term “lifecycle” as it
relates to documentation. However, if you look closely, you can see a
traditional lifecycle involved.

  • Preparation
    (analysis and design)
  • Initial
    document creation (construct)
  • Feedback
    and modification (test)
  • Approval
  • Subsequent
    updates and modifications (support / enhancements)

Now it should look more familiar as a lifecycle. Remember that
not all documents require a full lifecycle. However, if you understand the
nature of building documents, you will be better able to plan for the time
required to complete them successfully.