Project Practitioners > The Benefits of Documentation

The Benefits of Documentation

By Ann Drinkwater

As a practitioner and supporter of agile and lean, I am a strong believer in doing things for a reason and only those things that add value. So when it comes to documentation, many with basic exposure to agile may think that the methodology means that project documentation is not created. Instead, it should be more about creating meaningful plans and if that means documentation, then it should also add value and be the proper amount. I do not believe in producing documentation (unless the contract specifically requires certain documents) for the sake of documentation. While many technical individuals balk at the thought and mention of documentation, I personally see some real benefits. Below are my top thoughts on documentation:


  • Determine What Others Need to Know – Think through all aspects of the project, implementation and post launch support and maintenance to determine what those within the direct project team and ancillary teams may need. If the implementation team is not the team supporting the project, there will undoubtedly be a need for some degree of documentation. Carefully analyzing and consulting others on what they may need will better ensure your time is well spent.

  • Determine the Proper Method & Style – Once you have a handle on the content and type of documentation needed, you can look at the audience of that material. Does it need to be constructed in a searchable web page, as a wiki page or something more formal? The writing style and delivery method should be based on the audience, which is in turn determined by the content of the material.

  • Determine a Process for Updates – This is the hardest part. Keeping current with documentation requires a regimented process. Within our project schedules we should plan for continuous documentation updates and ensure that we take the time for these checkpoints. Once you get in a rhythm with documentation, work hard to keep it going. Restarting this behavior and activity after a period of inactivity can be a challenge and hard to recover.

  • Consider Other Benefits & Applications – While the first three bullets focus on providing documentation to support a project or communication with others, the process of documenting is very much a planning exercise. Just going through the process of documenting requires our left brain, analytical hat and thinking through all aspects. This in itself can be very useful. I’d suggest identifying the major unknowns and high risk areas and determine documentation tasks for select portions. This can be helpful in getting the analysis started.

Documentation is a form of communication. Making good decisions about what to document, the method, style and process surrounding documentation is important. Every task within our projects requires careful consideration and documentation is no different. In order to be effective, you must have a specific goal and audience for the material.


How are you using, or not using, documentation within your projects?


~Ann Drinkwater
http://blog.projectconnections.com/project_practitioners/ann-drinkwater.html  
http://www.linkedin.com/in/anndrinkwater 





Comments
Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I would be interested in (I have not done this myself, only thought about it) placing some web analytics on the pages/sites that contain the documentation. Something that captures how many visitors browse the documentation you do produce will undoubtedly shed light upon whether or not you are actually documenting the right things.

Brandon


Post a comment




(Not displayed with comment.)









©Copyright 2000-2017 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail info@projectconnections.com
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy



Stay Connected
Get our latest content delivered to your inbox, every other week. New case studies, articles, templates, online courses, and more. Check out our Newsletter Archive for past issues. Sign Up Now

Follow Us!
Linked In Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds


Got a Question?
Drop us an email or call us toll free:
888-722-5235
7am-5pm Pacific
Monday - Friday
We'd love to talk to you.

Learn more about ProjectConnections and who writes our content. Want to learn more? Compare our membership levels.