Four Reasons Why Documentation is Still Mission Critical
After about 20 years in the software industry doing all things documentation-related: knowledge management, architecture, strategy, managing global projects and teams; I am professionally qualified to remind everyone out there why documentation – that thing we love to hate – is still mission critical.
1 – Documentation is Critical for Legal Compliance and Revenue Recognition
Yes, documentation can and will be held against you in a court of law or not less importantly – in the public arena. If you withhold it, misrepresent your product or its purpose, fail to provide the consumer with what they need to know, or neglect to show all security precautions needed when using the product, you are exposing yourself to a barrage of lawsuits and public recrimination.
2 – Documentation is Critical for Internal Use
No matter how complex or simple your product is, the people who are designing and building it need to know what they are expected to manufacture, who they are manufacturing for, what their timeline is and what resources are available to them. It is inconceivable that this type of planning, instruction, blue prints and expertise not be made available. Consider how many people need this information in order to do the best and most efficient job that they can possibly do, in order to make a success of the product.
3 – Documentation is Critical for the Direct and Indirect Use of Consumers
No matter how complex or simple your product is, the people who will eventually use it, whether they will be the direct or indirect beneficiaries of this product, still need to know the configuration requirements and the security precautions of said product. They need to make an educated decision about whether or not they would like to use this product, or whether they would like to stick to a similar product of another major competitor. For example, say you are like me, and are interested in sustainability and preserving the planet. If you buy your child a toy that claims to teach about renewable energy, but instead it blows up in your child's face, you would be understandably outraged, and would like to ensure – in all circumstances – that this not happen to others.
4 – Documentation as a Weapon in the Hand of Others
While you are busy writing your mission critical documentation, just remember, that there are others out there who will go to great lengths to expose misrepresentations/falsities and alleged functionality that actually doesn't work as it should. These 'others' might represent competitors, detractors, lobbyists, or any other number of groups. Regardless of who they are, and what their covert agenda is, what is common amongst them, is that unless you – as manufacturer –reverse the tables and set out to prove that your own documentation is 'inaccurate' (to put it mildly), these groups will show that your product is not safe for the public and they will not rest until you – the manufacturer – take accountability and do the right thing in the public eye.