So, after the initial shock of discovering what happens when you have no technical documentation, what can you achieve now that you have technical documentation?
1: Have you employed/contracted a Technical Author . . . Great!! If not what’s holding you back . . . remember we bring value
2: If you cannot see your technical author at their desk you’ll no doubt find him/her performing Vulcan mind melds and extracting the necessary technical information from the heads of your development/infrastructure staff (if it looks painful don’t worry, the job is mandatory!)
3: Start a discussion about what you need and I’m certain your technical author will only be too happy to help?
4: Once you have technical documentation there is no more guesswork as you have plenty of reliable data against which to measure the progress of future projects
5: You can also employ a project manager who can plan ahead because you know everyone who needs it!
6: Documentation is no longer a problem and what you require is what you will get . . . Congratulations!
It is not unusual to find companies still use Shared Drives to store their documentation. As many Technical Writers will point out, the problem with shared drives is that they are neither secure nor searchable.
What is the problem with shared drives?
- The folder structure has too many levels meaning documents are difficult to find
- There are information gaps as users keep copies of documentation locally and not on the shared drive
- There is no formal ownership of the documents
- The title and subject of the document does not accurately reflect the content
- Document versioning is not used meaning the latest version is . . . Where?
- There are many copies of the same document
- The failure to maintain a workable Archiving policy means many documents with the same title contain unchecked updates
- There is no historical tracking of documents to keep integrity of the content
- Searching for documents on a shared drive will raise many unrelated results
Using a non configured Document Management System (DMS)
It would seem ironic that companies do spend a large amount of budget on installing a DMS such as SharePoint but fail to task an experienced employee to set it up correctly. So what happens when the DMS is left to grow without the correct administration?
- Failure to lock down user privileges means it becomes a free for all with no proper administration
- Check In, Check Out, Document Versioning and Security are not configured meaning user’s drop off documents where they see fit
- There is no historical tracking of documents to keep integrity
- Users create folders without proper titles and lose their document
- Backup of the DMS is irregular
If you want to manage your documentation in a way in which it cannot become a free for all you need to consider a form of document control and establish a policy and a set of rules to keep your documentation in check.
Technical and Process Documentation is an asset, and your staff should treat it as such. Look after it, and it will look after your business.