As a project manager I have been through my fair share of creating lively documents bundling all of the information necessary to describe a complete project from start to finish. They have always been a necessity both to myself as to the boards or steering committees I have presented the fundamentals of these documents to. They are indeed the yellow brick road the project should stick to and are the basis against which the project should be evaluated. A lot of companies do not approve projects when the existence of the document is absent. Projects will not proceed if approval on them is not given. Rightly so too. Governance should be instated and projects should be evaluated against a baseline plan which includes business reason, business case, current and future situation, cost, schedule, high-level scope and detailed requirements, project schedule, resource allocation, technology choices, project approach, strategies on communication, changes, quality, risk etcetera. There should clearly be an insight on who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. And you should have a strengths analysis of some sort, you should have looked at the weaknesses, made sure to note the opportunities and evaluated the threats. But, is all that information relevant to the same person at the same time? Do you really expect a certain colleague to dig through your 100+ page document to find these single paragraphs relevant for him or her? Do you really need to bundle it all into one single Word file?
The more I think about it, the more I feel disconnected with the complete idea of grouping it all into the same master project document; the more that I start thinking that documents like this miss the point more often than not. To make sure you’ll understand the rest of this post, I will immediately admit this: yes, there are situations where these documents serve a purpose with most of these purposes being of a contractual and / or international kind. When you are dealing with offshore supply teams, where communication is slow and cumbersome, you would win by going through the lengthy process of crafting that PID and discussing the contents in it. The reason is that the amount of communication necessary between supply and demand to draft up and finalize the document, would create the shared vision your project needs for it to succeed. But what if you are working close and need results quickly? What if supply and demand is in the same company? Do you still need The Master Document? I doubt that, and imposing it to the masses as corporate governance cripples your agility and increases your time to react to market changes immediately.