Documentation Process: Importance

When something goes wrong in a project, it is easy to blame an individual as the cause of the problem or for deviating from the desired quality, process, or schedule. This is where procedures help. Procedures are nothing but standard approach of doing things.

A good process is akin to a highway. Though it is made to ensure smooth and fast travel, there is a likelihood of head-on collisions with vehicles coming from the opposite direction, at certain junctions. Keeping an eye open for such junctions and having considerable room to manuver within the cross roads avoids collisions. Similarly, you have to explore and define each of the areas prone to accidents and collisions during the planning process.

Manuals have a bad reputation, often for good reason. The good documents don’t get the credit they deserve because the bad one gets all the attention. The worst part is that writers get the blame, even when they are given inadequate time, tools, and support to do the job. — Michael Bremer

Problems like unclear procedures, inadequate information, language errors, and, online help that is difficult to navigate, lead to inefficiency and reduced productivity of the users. So it is important to have an effective process that will help reduce errors and improve usability of the documents. It is not enough to say that the document must be error free. It is equally important to define the acceptable quality, and the methods to meet it. Hence, the documentation effort should also be well planned, not just thrown together at the last minute to meet a deadline.

An effective documentation process helps reducing the problems as it:

  • Defines the practical steps you must perform to achieve quality results.
  • Contains a list of tasks to be performed.
  • Provide a framework on how to perform the tasks and activities.
  • Defines the accepted degree of accuracy and errors and thus increases the likelihood of success of a project.
  • Explains the set of activities to be carried to efficiently complete a quality documentation project.
  • Specifies the tasks, objectives, roles, responsibilities, process description, references, quality records, and authorization details.
  • Provides confidence that the work done in a certain way is acceptable.
  • Provides consistency of results—if everyone follows the same process and procedure, they will be doing things the same way, reducing the probability of making errors.
  • Provides a ready-made reference to a newcomer and thus reduces the learning curve.

Limitations of Procedure/Process

Processes do not make mistakes. People do. Processes are the tools that help you avoid make the mistakes. Inspite of all the advantages, these are some limitation of the procedures and processes:

  • A process may work well for some projects/products, but not for the others. In such a situation, it is better to adapt to an alternative workable variation in the process than to blindly follow the prescribed procedure. Sometimes you may have to perform some additional tasks not listed in the process, and sometimes you may need not follow all of them.
  • Although the process describes how certain activities should occur and be performed, sometimes experience helps you make the right decision. Experience also helps you understand the issues to make good judgment on how to proceed, specially in unknown situations that are not addressed by the procedures
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