How to Organize Your Project Documentation

If your shop is financially limited you may not have enough money to purchase document repository systems to manage your project documentation.  However, you can organize your documentation in such a way that makes it pretty easy to manage.

Create a Main Directory on Your Shared Drive

Create a dedicated directory for documentation of your projects.  Organize it by the project ID # and Project Title.  Standardize the way the folders are named so they display in an organized manner to the users.

Create a Sub-Directory in Each Project Folder

It is not unusual to end a project with a hundred plus of documents.  Categorizing your documents for better organization will make it easier for everyone to find the documents that are important for them.  I like to have the following folder structure in my projects.

PM Docs

This folder will contain your project charter, project team directory and project plan, including any sub plans that you may or may not have as part of your project.

Business Process Flow

This folder will contain all the process flows, use cases and business process descriptions.

Business Requirements

This folder will contain your Business Requirements.  These are the requirements on the business side that is independent of the system.  The Business Requirements support the Business Process.  See my article about Business Requirements for more information about documenting Business Requirements.

System Requirements

This document details the requirements of the system that will support the business requirements.  See my post about Documenting System Requirements.

System Design

The System Design could be one or multiple documents if the system design covers more than one functional area.  However, if there are multiple functional areas, you may need another document that demonstrates how all functional areas work together.  See post on documenting System Design.

Technical Design

The Technical Design can be written by the developer and will contain a prototype of the web page and all things technical, such as data field definitions, database definitions, code table definitions, data validations, etc.

Meetings and Communications

These folders can get unruly but better here that in the root folder of the project.  Further sub folders may include meeting agendas, meeting minutes, email chains that help complete your design.

Policy and other research

You don’t need to repeat the policy in your other documents.  Store it here.  Store the results of any other research you do as well.

Create Archive Folders

I find that having an archive folder in each of the sub folders can really help keep your document versions in line especially if you keep a separate copy of all your documents as it changes.  I find this helpful in case there is ever disagreement on the evolution of the documents as you progress through your projects.  Many of your documents are living documents until the product is in production, so keeping a history can be very helpful.

Create a document Directory

To ease the use of your document package for each project, create a document directory.  Create this document in a spreadsheet to take advantage of sorting and filtering features.  I like to be able to sort by functional area or by type of document.  Your spreadsheet should have at minimum these columns.

  • Name of Document
  • Type of Document – System Requirements, Technical Design, etc.
  • Functional Area of the document. Which business process does it belong to.

Other helpful information

  • Date of creation
  • Date of last update
  • Author of document
  • Last change made by

Create a Sample Folder

To help everyone comply with this standard storage, you can create a template folder that already contains all the sub directories.  You can also create a windows app that will generate the folder structure for you.  In doing so, you can create permissions as well so your staff can’t accidentally drag a subfolder into another folder.

Create a Production Folder in the Root Directory

Once your projects go to production and have been closed out, move the folder to the production folder.  You can further categorize by release date.  Just remember you may need to update hyperlinks in documents if you move it, so be mindful of this when creating hyperlinks to other documents.

Create a Zip File of all Official Documents

If you must turn over the documentation to your customer, create a zip file of your document package for final storage.  Store the zip file in the root folder of the project for reference.

Keeping your documentation organized will make a big difference to all who use it as your documentation library grows.  If your documentation is poorly organized it is highly likely that proper documentation will simply be dropped as not useful, when it is actually the organization that failed, not the document.  However, remember my philosophy, if a document is not useful, don’t write it!

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