The meaning of documentation can seem so broad as to be all-encompassing at times, but the possibilities for leveraging the power of documentation to improve your business, your work, and even your life are equally endless.
You’ll need to discard traditional dictionary definitions and limiting ideas about documentation if you want to gain maximum potential from your documentation practices.
Let’s explore the exciting new lenses through which to view documentation!
Documentation is a Mindset
Documentation is about making the intangible tangible. Doing this takes work. It is a discipline. Talk to any manager or business owner—they are all looking for people with a mindset for getting things documented. A documentation mindset shows an attitude of diligence, attention to details and a focus on “getting things done.” You need to start with the mindset first. There are a lot of skills involved in documentation, but even the best technical writing skills and the best graphical flair for documentation or understanding of metadata will get you nowhere without having the right mindset.
Documentation is a Skill Stack
A “talent stack” is a concept coined by Dilbert comic creator, Scott Adams. It is the idea that take can combine normal skills until you have the right kind to be extraordinary. Scott Adams refers to his own skills where he has combined a little bit of business knowledge, drawing skills, and humor with a strong work ethic to build world-famous comic series empire. You too can “stack” your talents to become a Documentation Dynamo. For example, if you are an IT professional but you happen to be an excellent writer (a rare combination I might add), you can “stack” these talents to create technical IT documentation for your team that puts you leagues ahead of your IT teammates.
While I agree with stacking “talent” when it comes to documentation, I also know that no one is born knowing how to document. No one enters the work world, for that matter either, knowing how to document. Documentation is much more of a “skill” stack than a “talent” stack. This implies that you need to build a full repertoire of documentation skills. This includes interviewing, capturing, listening, discerning information, technical writing, presenting, formatting, diagramming, communicating, and knowing the basics of metadata—to name a few. Combined, they become a powerful force.
Documentation is a Strategy
Documentation is a supporting strategy. Without it, your company’s other goals—increased sales, improved safety, research and development—will not be successful.
Documentation strategy can be broken into the following components:
- Philosophy: your “mantra” when it comes to documentation. Your overarching goals, vision and approach.
- Technology: your approach to technology related to documentation and information management. How it uses technology and what tools it uses.
- Measurement and Evaluation: your methods for measuring the quality of documentation. This is often buried into other areas of assessment, audits, quality assurance, etc.
- Skills and Training: your documentation skills that you hire and train for.
- Process: your documentation process, which consists of Capturing, Structuring, Presenting, Communicating, and Storing and Maintaining Information.
Documentation is a Process
Documentation is a process. The documentation process reinforces your documentation strategy—which upholds your corporate strategy. The documentation process consists of:
- Capturing: This means getting information in or on somewhere whether it is getting information out of someone’s head and onto paper through an interview, taking notes in a meeting or a conference, or pulling information out of a tool or technology.
- Structuring: This is about making sense or making use of what you have captured in positioning the information in logical patterns.
- Presenting: This is about connecting with your audience through both the words selected and the visuals.
- Communicating: Documentation is built to be shared. This is about getting the information or product that you have spent time to develop out to your audience to make a meaningful connection.
- Storing and Leveraging – This is about retaining and managing your information and documentation to support and propel your business for the future.
Rather than viewing documentation in its traditional view as physical and electronic files, I want you to expand your thinking. Dare to see the subject as engaging and dynamic. Look beyond the physical documents to see risks and opportunities. Documents, files, and systems are secondary to the larger goals we are looking to achieve.
Looking to discuss your documentation challenges or opportunities? Or else, do you want to learn how to take your documentation to the next level? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to speak with you!