Project Managers (PM) are responsible for planning and executing a technical documentation project’s strategy for success. Their function involves coordinating many different elements of the project, from people, to time, to materials. The right mix of planning, monitoring, and controlling can make the difference in completing a project on time, on budget, and with results that exceed client expectations.
Typically, small documentation projects don't require the services of a formal documentation PM. That doesn’t mean that small projects don’t need to be tracked. They do. But, professional technical writers are able to do this by using a simple Excel spreadsheet to follow their own progress and keep their managers informed about any scheduling issues or other areas of concern.
It’s the mid-sized to large technical documentation projects that benefit most from the services of a documentation PM. For these projects, it’s essential to use the PM to guide the project to a successful completion. Documentation PMs serve to define the project and plan the work schedule. They also manage project:
Use of project planning software, such as Microsoft Project, is encouraged for tracking the larger projects. There’s a sharp learning curve associated with this software so new PMs need to familiarize themselves with it before tackling a large project. If you’re a PM and are unfamiliar with Microsoft Project, the best way to learn about it is to begin by using the software to perform basic project management tasks. Refer to Getting started: Microsoft Project basics for instructions.
Attribute: Photo above courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
5 Phases of the Project Management Process
Although projects and project management processes vary from industry to industry, the following phases reflect the more traditional elements of a typical project. With medical device manufactures, there is the added requirement for FDA compliance strategies.
- Conception and initiation. During this phase, the decision-making team presents an idea for a project, determines if the project benefits the company, and identifies if the project can realistically be completed.
- Definition and planning. During this phase, the decision-making team assigns a priority to the project, establishes a budget and schedule, and decides what resources will be needed to complete the project. They may also decide if the project needs a designated documentation PM and if the project can be done in-house or if it needs to be outsourced to a technical writing services firm. At this point, the project plan that outlines the work to be performed may be formalized in writing. If applicable, FDA compliance strategies are also presented.
- Execution or Project Launch. During this phase, work teams are assigned and informed of their responsibilities. These teams then familiarize themselves with the requirements of the project, discuss various project-related information and strategies, and begin work on the project.
- Performance and control. During this phase, the PM reviews the progress of the project and compares the milestones to the actual project plan. Then, the PM updates the key decision makers and, if necessary, adjusts the schedule to keep the project on track.
- Wrap up and close. Once the project is completed, approved, and deliverables are turned over for retention, the PM and teams review the outcome with a “lessons learned” evaluation.
To learn more about the basic skills every PM needs to succeed, check out our blog, 8 Project Management Skills Required to Create Training Solutions. For resources regarding Project Management as a career path, take a look at:
- Project Management Institute, the largest not-for-profit membership association for the PM profession
- American Management Association, a recognized leader in professional development for the PM profession
What are some of the action items you include as part of your PM process? Please share them in the comments below.