The need for documentation

Now that you got your company aligned, your initiatives are well planned and ready to be tracked, and the necessary technology is set up, you’re ready to start, right? Wrong.

I know you’ll hate me for saying this, as do many technical people, but you have to define documentation standards.

Why? To remove dependencies and manage knowledge. If projects are not well documented, this is what will happen:

  • Every time a new person joins the project, they’ll be entirely lost and require lots and lots of attention from your most senior people. You know, the ones that should be working on getting you the most impact possible in the least amount of time.
  • Every time someone is unavailable, it won’t be clear what this person did and if changes are required, questions will occur.
  • Every time someone leaves the project, you’re in trouble. Without documentation, no-one will fully understand how the project works.

Fortunately for you, I’ve added a chapter to this book where I go deeper into documentation for different topics: code, databases, etc.

Documentation is essential for your projects’ long-term success and, ultimately, for your data strategy.

The Role of Documentation in the FORCE Methodology

In the FORCE methodology, documentation plays a pivotal role across all five pillars, but it’s especially crucial in the Foundation phase. It’s the thread that weaves through the entire methodology, ensuring that every step, from initial planning to final execution, is recorded, understood, and accessible.

Types of Documentation and Their Importance

  1. Project Documentation: This includes project plans, timelines, and goals. It’s the roadmap that guides your team from start to finish, ensuring everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction. Without it, you’re navigating without a compass.

  2. Technical Documentation: Here, we’re talking about code documentation, API documentation, and system architecture diagrams. This is the blueprint of your project. It’s what allows new developers to get up to speed quickly, reduces dependencies on individual team members, and ensures that your technology stack is transparent and understandable.

  3. User Documentation: This encompasses user manuals, FAQs, and training materials. It’s often overlooked but critically important. After all, what’s the point of building a sophisticated data solution if the end-users can’t figure out how to use it? User documentation bridges the gap between your data solutions and the people who benefit from them.

  4. Process Documentation: This includes workflows, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and best practices. It’s the playbook for your team, detailing how things are done, why they’re done that way, and how to handle exceptions. It’s about ensuring consistency and quality in your operations.

Best Practices for Effective Documentation

  • Keep it Simple and Accessible: Documentation shouldn’t be a chore to read. Use clear, concise language, and make sure it’s easily accessible to those who need it. A document no one can find or understand is as good as no document at all.

  • Make it a Team Effort: Documentation shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of a single person. It should be a collaborative effort, with contributions from everyone involved in the project. This not only spreads the workload but also ensures a more comprehensive and multifaceted documentation.

  • Update Regularly: Documentation is not a one-and-done task. It needs to be a living document, updated regularly as your project evolves. Outdated documentation can be as harmful as no documentation at all.

  • Leverage Documentation Tools: There are numerous tools out there designed to make documentation easier, from wiki systems like Confluence to documentation generators for code. Find the tools that work best for your team and make the most of them.

Conclusion: Documentation as a Catalyst for Success

In the end, documentation is more than just a series of documents. It’s a catalyst for success, enabling your team to work more efficiently, reduce dependencies, and ensure that your data strategy is executed flawlessly. It’s the glue that holds the FORCE methodology together, turning a collection of good ideas into a coherent, actionable, and successful strategy.

So, let’s embrace documentation, not as a necessary evil, but as a powerful tool in our data strategy arsenal. Remember, a well-documented project is a well-executed project. And in the world of data strategy, execution is everything.

In the next chapter, we encounter another pivotal concept: the Single Source of Truth. Just as documentation serves as a guiding light for project management and knowledge management, the SSOT ensures standardized, reliable data across our organization. Together, these pillars lay the groundwork for informed decision-making and sustainable growth.