Too Many Project Management Templates

project management templates

Written By Andrew Makar

Professional Cat Herder and an Agile Enthusiast with a keen interest in putting PM theory into actual practice.

Does your project management methodology hinder rather than enable project delivery? At first glance, this question may offend rather than provoke critical thought. After all, a PM methodology is supposed to ensure work is completed using a disciplined, proven set of processes to ensure consistent and reliable project results.

If a PM methodology is supposed to enable project delivery, why are PMs bogged down with documentation for every single step, process and procedure in the methodology? It can often feel like the PM is spending more effort managing the administrative documentation instead of managing the day to day risks, issues and schedule delays.

As project managers, I’m sure all of you have seen various methodologies to initiate, plan, execute, control and close your projects. I’ve had the pleasure of managing a variety of projects in different Fortune 500 manufacturing firms. Each firm had a different methodology tailored to their organization, although they all had a foundation from the PMBOK. In order to complete the planning phase in one organization, the project manager was required to complete 16 documents. In another organization, the planning phase required 25 documents. It makes you wonder if delivering the project is an exercise in filling out paperwork or actually delivering the project scope for the business partner.

Optimizing Project Management Templates

The purpose of this article isn’t to call for a reform to PM methodologies and project administration. There will always be a critical set of documents required to manage any project such as the project schedule, issue log, risk log, change register and of course status reports. Project administration is part of the job; however, the goal in streamlining a methodology is not to remove administrative tasks but to optimize the administrative tasks and reduce non-value add documentation.

A candidate for PM methodology optimization is the project management plan. Pull out your PMBOK book and you’ll recall the project management plan is the formal, approved plan to manage project execution. Although often used interchangeably, the project plan is not the project schedule–rather it is a comprehensive document that describes how the project will be managed and supporting processes within the project.

The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) has published a standard for a software project management plans (IEEE 1058) that identifies key sections for any project management plan. The standard includes process sections for the project organization, managerial processes and technical processes. The processes for risk management, issue management, change management, quality management and additional project management processes are often documented in the software management plan.

In some methodologies, project plan development is non-existent and substituted for the norms and standards found in the organization. In other organizations, a project plan template is used and project managers are required to complete the document during the project planning phase. As project managers move to new projects, an entirely new project management plan needs to be completed. Depending on the scope, the project management plan can easily span 15-20 pages describing the project management processes.

There is a significant opportunity for optimization by reducing the amount of administration required by project manager and the project management plan. Instead of creating a new project management plan, the PMO should consider owning the project management plan document and provide a template that requires minimal customization by the project manager.

If the PMO wants to ensure consistent processes are implemented, a standard project management plan should be developed that contains the processes and tools used to document risks, issues, change requests, quality management and configuration management. Project management processes are often supported by a suite of tools to capture risks, identify issues and facilitate change requests. Instead of having the project manager reiterate the process steps in the project management plan, a better optimized solution already includes these steps in the document and allows the project to customize.

If an organization uses Microsoft Sharepoint, Documentum or other online document repository to store project documents for configuration management, the project management plan should already document the process for checking and checking out the documents. The project manager simply needs to provide the location in the configuration repository. If an organization uses project portfolio management tools like CA Clarity, Primavera or MS-Project Portfolio Server, the project management plan should already state the expectation that project managers use these tools to store risks, publish project schedules and document change requests.

Some areas will require specific project manager involvement including the project schedule, key milestones, resource training and communication plans. The effort to provide this information is greatly reduced since the bulk of the document is already completed. The benefit of this approach is the document is already written for consistency and the project manager simply needs to follow the process rather than repeating how issue or change management will be supported in the project. The project manager can modify sections of the project plan while still remaining consistent with the PMO processes and tools used to control and execute the project.

An effective PMO will look to optimize the project management methodology and enable their project managers with tools and templates that meet project management standards but also reduce the administrative burden. Adopting this viewpoint also encourages the PMO to be less administrative and more collaborative to project execution and delivery. Instead of producing another template that project managers need to fill out, the PMO is enabling the project managers to overcome the project administration hurdle. The project management plan is just one document that can be a candidate for optimization. I’ve got another 15 to go…

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