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Friday, 13 April 2007 12:06

It Was An Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny......

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Finding the right balance of documentation and methodology can be challenging on small projects.  Here are some tips. 

I have been managing small projects for some time now.  Some of my project are really tiny, I'm talking about 8 hours of work max.  Others can be 2 week or month-long projects.  Some span several months, and then you get up into the 6 month and year plus undertakings.


As a student of project management, I have often struggled with finding the right level of planning and documentation for these various sizes of projects.  Some things are obvious, as in I'm not going to go through a formal project plan and communication plan, etc. for an 8 hour project.

As a rough guideline, here is what I use:

Level 1 (Projects longer than 6 months in duration)

  • Full blown project planning and documentation for whatever is appropriate to the project

Level 2 (Projects 1-6 months in duration)

  • Simplified project planning document, which includes brief communications and risk plans, along with scope definition, limitations, objectives, and deliverables.  Also containts a simple WBS and Gantt-style task list with dependencies, owners, estimates, and a timeline.
  • Weekly status reports to stakeholders
  • Project meeting agenda/minutes template - I use this to document the agenda before meetings about the project, then update it immediately after the meetings and send it out to all the stakeholders.  It includes a section for decisions regarding agenda items, and a seperate section for action items.
  • Project Closure report at the end which summarizes the business benefits gained and effort spent.  This is a good post-mortem look at ROI.  Lessons learned are also attached to this.


Level 3 (Projects 1 to 4 weeks in duration)

  • Simple project request form, where the requestor fills out their definition of requirements and business justification.  Since these requests are fairly simple, I normally work out the details of the requirements over the phone with the customer, and just make updates in my project documentation log (which I keep for all projects big and small)
  • Weekly status reports to all stakeholders (sometimes yes, sometimes no - depends on the project)
  • Project Closure Report


Level 4 (Less than 1 week)

  • For this I still have the simple project request form
  • Email when the deliverable (usually 1) is ready for validation, asking for approval


I keep detailed activity logs for all levels of projects, even if it's a 2 hour job.  My department has a sharepoint site set up that works really slick for this.

I find that using these guidelines, and the templates I've developed, really makes it easy for me to keep my ducks in a row and keep my stakeholders informed about what is going on, for any small to medium project I am managing.  For more information, check out this great article by Simon Buehring which I found today and very closely matches my style for managing small projects.


Josh Nankivel is the Vice Chair of Special Projects for the Students of Project Management SIG of PMI. He is also a project management student and enthusiast. His website is, whose mission is “Professional growth through project management education and knowledge.”

Read 6672 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 December 2009 20:35
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