Project Documentation Systems

For three years I worked with a team of other project managers to build IPTV facilities for one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies. During this time we installed and updated over 60 IPTV head end offices throughout the country.

Although each site was slightly different, there was a lot of commonality between them. I saw that there would be benefits to automating some of the documentation that was required at each site, and I discovered a need to make the common reference documents easy for the Project Managers and the installation teams to access.

As a result, I developed an automated process for producing the customer-required job start documents, a database system for comparing wiring lists, and the “Everything You Always Wanted to Know” reference document system.

Job Start Documentation System

Our customer required a standard set of fifteen specific documents (in the customer’s format) to be on-site before each build could begin. While each document had a unique purpose, they all contained the same information related to the specific build. Initially, the documents were created manually. I developed a automated production system using Microsoft Excel and Word. The common information was entered into the Excel spreadsheet, which auto-populated the information into separate Word documents. The system resulted in substantial productivity and quality improvements for each site.

Wire List Comparison Database

Each new site had to be wired for network connectivity. This typically required 1200-2000 cables that were listed in an Excel spreadsheet (which was produced by another company) at the beginning of each job. Frequently, due to changes in channel line ups or equipment, the wiring had to be changed after it had already been installed. It was important to know exactly which cables had been removed, added, or changed. Comparing the initial and revised wire list spreadsheets was the only way to do this, and doing the comparison manually was very difficult. I developed a Microsoft Access database that read the initial and revised wire list, compared the two, and printed a summary report that clearly showed which cables had been changed.

“Everything You Always Wanted To Know” Reference Documentation System

The team we had working on this project developed a substantial amount of information, templates, and instructions that were very useful for building a site. Initially, we’d email these to the other members of the team when we created them. But soon, it became common for people to say “Do you have that template? I know it’s in my email somewhere, but I can’t find it.”

Borrowing the title from the famous 1969 book, I developed an Excel spreadsheet that listed the typical project tasks in sequential order, and had links to the reference documentation that applied to each task. I would create a Zip file that contained the spreadsheet and the reference documents and email that out to the team. Although we had on-line document repository capability, the installation teams did not always have Internet access while at the job site, so it was necessary to have the information available directly from people’s laptops.

I created my first EYAWTK (as it became known) spreadsheet on July 2, 2008 with links to 12 reference documents. I revised and updated the system frequently, and my last version was sent out over two years later on February 3, 2011 and contained 110 reference documents. The system was very successful and popular with the project teams.

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