As professional project managers, we probably work heavily with templates…either using them or creating them. Templates can be a series of Word files, Excel files, Powerpoint files, or even PDF files. Templates are most often used for expense reports, budgets, letters and emails, project instructions, and schedules…you name it. But what are the best templates to use in project management?
Why do we use templates?
Templates make the life and role of a project manager easier. They save time and they practice consistency across team members, departments and functional areas, and even among other project managers. So much time and effort can be dedicated to creating internal as well as external documents. After all, why reinvent the wheel?
If you are a new project manager to the organization or role itself, it may be your job to create some new templates for you and your team prior to beginning a new project. Where do you start? You can always start from scratch. Get some feedback from your team on what should be in the documents and how to create them. You can also look to some project management software that provides reports as well as templates. But how do you know you are creating or are using the best templates?
What should the best templates include?
The best templates should include the following:
- Company Branding – It is always important to consistently use the company branding on all documents, especially when creating external documents for clients, customers, and quotes. This will maintain a high level of professionalism for all team members and project managers.
- Fields and Headers – When you or a member of your team opens the document, the document should automatically pre-fill information needed (i.e. the PMs name, the date, vendors, project ID, etc.) This will save the team member and/or PM time in filling out the same information over and over, especially if he or she does this several times per day. This will also minimize the risk for error and typos, which could be costly down the line.
- Charts and Other Data – When working in spreadsheet programs such as Excel, it may be helpful to have charts, graphs, or other figures already created. That way when the project manager, team lead, or other team member needs to add data, it will update the chart or graph automatically. Not only will this make it easy for others to use them, but the margin for error and risk will decrease since the charts are already properly designed.
- Comments and Notes – Regardless of which templates you create for what purpose, you should add in notes and comments to different fields, especially to those sections and areas that are meant to draw others’ attention to, such as instructions on how to fill out a certain area, input or feedback, or even an area that is most common left out or missed. You can also include comments and notes on a particular document for training purposes so the new project manager or team member knows how to fill out the document properly and its overall purpose and function.
While setting up and creating templates in the beginning may seem like a daunting and time-consuming task, it will save bundles of time during the height of projects and during peak business time. Templates also help improve efficiency and consistency across all team members and departments. Make sure the templates you create include the points above.