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29 January 2012

The terror of the templates

This sat in draft for a while.  It's about bureaucracy, PMOs and change.
Some quick questions to get you involved;
  • Do you know the people in your PMO?
  • Do they know you?
  • Are they committed to seeing your project succeed?
  • Really?
  • Or are they just about process compliance and weekly status reports?
Some PMOs are really useful, some are less so.

(PMOs are a nebulous thing, so I might run up another post on my views on what makes a good PMO at another time.)

I recall once I had to go into a meeting where I had to justify why I wanted to create addional project documents, and why I wanted to vary from the usual tempaltes.

The reason I wanted to do 'extra' documentation is becasue we want to demonstrate new processes and methods for the organisation, and as a result want to keep them comfortable while w experiment with their people and processes.

We'll follow good agile practices and do fortnightly product reviews, and product burn up charts, and we'll also provide a report showing time and money spent against a target.  We'll work with a backlog full of user stories, and we'll also provide a high level requirements summary for our main release phases, one at a time, focused on the next release.

We definitely want to present a Project Management Plan, and a Quality Plan and Communications & (people) Change Management Plan which aim at explaining our methods and thinking through some of the more complicated parts of the program.

So, if I want to go above and beyond in terms of project documentation why the hassle?

Well, for one thing I also want to omit redundant documentation. In particular some of the requirements documentation.  We already have plenty of detail to hand, so why both rolling it up into multiple summaries and decompositions?  We already have a product vision statement and release roadmap so why elaborate that into additional documents that are at the heart of many project failure modes.

And while I am on the topic of reducing overhead, I would really like to abandon the template approach to documentation.  I get the point of templates, and in the past templates have helped me learn, but checklists are a much more effective tool than templates and make for less overhead

I specifically want to abandon the parts of templates that repeat the same shot over and over again so the repetitive and incidental details can be cleared out of the way, and so that important information can be added. Remember white space?  I want a crisper and clearer message.  I want the readers to engage with the content.

Picture of the PMO manual care of Celeste CC @ Flickr