If your organization has ever embarked on an IT project, you may have heard a lot of buzzwords when it came down to the documentation needed. System Requirements (one of my favorite), Communication Plan, Work Breakdown Structure, Test Plan, are just a few of the types of documents that may have been thrown around as potential documentation needed for the project in order to help secure its success. But what are the documents and do you need all of them for every project?

The table below provides a very high level explanation on some common IT project documents. It is ultimately up to the project manager and stakeholders as to which documents are truly necessary. Having all the documents does not guarantee a successful project; however, having the truly important and useful documents can specific to the project help with its success, no matter if it is large or small.

Document Name What is it? When do you need it?
Concept Proposal Explains the “need” for the project and to gain a project sponsor. This document is used when it is necessary to explain “Why” strategic goals are not being met or where mission performance needs to be improved.
Project Charter Explains the scope, objectives and roles and authority with regard to the project. This is created by a project sponsor. This document is usually needed if a project has an in depth approval process.
Project Scope Statement Explains the intended results of the project and outlines the specific team being pulled together for the project. This document is always needed because it lays out the foundation of the project.
Project Management Plan Documents the planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among stakeholders, document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines. Most projects should have a project plan; however, depending on the project it can be very detailed or it can be very simple or any degree between. Project Managers want to create this document as there “blueprint” for the project.
Work Breakdown Structure Decomposes a project into individual activities. All projects should have a WBS that outlines each activity, resource assigned and time frame to complete.
Risk Management Plan Foresees risks, estimate impacts and define responses to issues. This document is recommended for most high dollar, detailed projects in order to help mitigate issues before they arise. This document can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Change Management Plan Documents the formal process for any changes to a project’s scope that may or may not impact the schedule. This is recommended for all projects to ensure that all stakeholders understand the process if a change is necessary in order for the project to be successful. This also helps to alleviate scope creep. This document can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Communications Management Plan Outlines types of communication (email, cell phone etc.) and who needs to be contacted and when he/she should be contacted. Most projects should include this information; however, this does not need to be very complex and can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Human Resources (Staffing) Management Plan Outlines the roles and can include specific personnel needed to successfully complete the project. Most projects should include this information; however, this does not need to be very complex and can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Quality Assurance (QA) Plan Outlines how the final product has been vetted and tested before delivery to ensure it meets the project requirements and/or customer’s expectation. Recommended for most projects; however the detail can be adjusted to match the project. This can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Cost Management Plan Provides detailed cost information in managing the budget and costs of a project. Most projects should include this information; however, this does not need to be very complex and can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Procurement Management Plan Shows how items necessary for the project (hardware/software etc.) will be purchased, by whom and when. This plan can also outline the procurement process. This document is only needed for more complex projects where multiple items are purchased and there is a need to track those purchase. This does not need to be very complex and can be included in the Project Management Plan.
Business Process Document Details the business process flow associated with the project. This document can be the basis for a scope of work, included as requirements, and can even be the basis for training materials. It is up to the Project Manager and stakeholders to determine if it is needed.
System Requirements Document (SRD) Lists in detail all the requirements needed for the developers to deliver a system that meets the customer’s needs. This document is always needed for IT projects. (See: Are Requirements Necessary When Purchasing IT Products?, What Does Your System Require? and Knowledge Center
Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) Conveys how a requirement is being tested. This ensures that all requirements have properly been tested. This document is needed whenever a System Requirements Document and a Test Plan are developed.
Test Master Plan (TMP) Details how procedure used to test the final product and record results. (See Going from Requirements to Test Plan) This is always needed in order to test the final product.