Project Document Library: How to Create One [video blog]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Welcome to our whiteboard session today on Creating a Project Document Library. There’s nothing that drives me more crazy than not being able to find my files, and worse yet, the same goes for the team. The worst thing that’s ever happened is to find that I’ve been working on a document that it’s the incorrect version. I know many of you out there can relate too. So I want to share with you some tips that I’ve found to help manage my project document library.

Number one:  “What is a project document library?” people ask. It’s a place to store project documents. It’s as simple as that.

And then, why, why would we do that? Again, many teams can still be in the same office location, but they may still be on different floors. They may be dispersed among the same city. But now, more and more people are spread globally. So why would we do this? It not only organizes and version controls the files, but it also provides access to other members on the team, and it manages the archives for historical data, so that you can get to it later. Many times projects may be delayed or they may be postponed for a period of time. So you want to be able to house those documents so you can pick up where you left off in the project, if it resumes.

And so we ask, “Where would we do this?” Ideally, in today’s time, we want to do this online. Online, so that people can access this by an Internet browser. If not, many companies have local servers that serve their company, so it’s within a firewall. You can set up a local server, so that, again, it’s done online so people on your team in different places can access it. And then, in truth, there are still some teams today who really do not have access to some of the online capabilities that some of us may have. If that’s the case, some of the teams are still co-located together in the same office. If that’s the case, I’ve seen some teams manage things in a common place where they can access the file cabinets, and due to security reasons, they have locked up so certain people can access it, so that not everybody can have access to certain legal contracts or proprietary information, that they can get access. But those things are actually harder to manage in a physical space than now, today, some of the online storage because they have this capability built in.

What would we store, and how would we store it? It’s important to think about the different teams who are going to need access to the information. Some people need access to different information. You can think of it by project. You may have multiple projects that you’re managing. You may have project one and then project two, and then under each project, you can have the project management files. I like to have those in a separate directory, because those are things that I am accessing, or if I happen to have an assistant or a project coordinator. So those are in one directory. I house the project charter, maybe a statement of work, if one is there, a project plan where all of the process documents are located, the schedules, contracts, estimates. Those are some of the things that I keep in the project management directory.

And then there are some people working on design documents. So there are certain people that may need access to those proprietary information. But you may not want everyone to have access to the design documents, because remember, when you give people access, they can, maybe, edit those. You can set up permissions for people to either view them, to read only, to edit them, or change them.

Some of the other ones are maybe forms, forms that different teams have to access and fill out or complete, approval forms, or maybe even templates.

So those are some of the high level categories. But it’s important to set them up so that they make sense to the people who are using them, because some people may access and look for things different than maybe you as a project manager. So it’s important for people to be able to go somewhere and find it and, again, have access. So one thing to remember, too, is setting the permissions. Not everyone needs access to everything.

And then some of the housekeeping items is remembering version control. So as you’re going through the project, to maintain different documents. You may have draft versions. And then once something is approved and finalized, approved by your Change Control Board or whoever needs to approve it, mark it as final. So you’ve got the draft versions and final versions.

And then, always remembering retention periods. According to some industries, it’s required by law that they retain information for certain years. One is the banking industry, some of the health care have laws and regulations that guide this, and you have to ensure that those documents are maintained and accessible for a certain period of time.

Then, always remembering to back up information. Because we’ve all been there, right? Where we go to find documents and it doesn’t matter if either they’re in the file cabinet, they’ve been misplaced or thrown away, or if it’s online and something’s been purged or deleted. You can’t find it. So it’s important to do your backup.

These are some of the best practices and some of the tips that I’ve found helpful in setting up my project document library, and I hope they’ll help you, too.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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