How Much Paperwork is Enough?

When running a project, it is often necessary to document certain things, for example, requirements, estimates for the work, time lines, testing results, and so on. Often, as a result of who will be seeing the documents, a particular format is needed, or perhaps the wording has to be adjusted to fit the usage.

All this is perfectly normal.

However, the one thing you want to make sure is that regardless of who will be seeing it, the information is documented only a single time, and then re-used from there. Most often, the initial data is being documented by people who don’t like writing things down in the first place. As an example, I’m a programmer by training, and while I’ll complain about bad documentation, or the lack thereof, I also don’t like documenting things myself.

The one thing that such people like less than documenting once is to have to document twice.

Granted, the person requesting the documentation often doesn’t know at the time the documents are produced what their final use will be, and therefore, what format would best suit that need. As such, the documents produced can fall woefully short of meeting those needs, and therefore have to be reproduced.

But once the document has been produced, unless there is a deviation from the accepted standards, it should not be thrown back to the original author to determine the best format for the current need. The person applying the information to a particular use should deal with that, and then use the resulting document to create a new template for the next project.

It’s all about efficiency, and a wise use of resources. If you had time to do it twice, there was time to do it right the first time. But if it has to be done twice, make sure that the person doing it the second time is the same person who sees the need to redo it in the first place.