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Systems Documentation: Is it Essential and Necessary to Develop?

Much is discussed, and there are several controversies about the need for systems documentation. For example, in traditional methodologies, it is usually required. In agile methods, this formality has little emphasis because one of the values ​​of the so-called Agile Manifesto for Software Development says that “working software comes before comprehensive documentation”. However, this does not mean that documentation is not essential even in agile projects. Documentation tools such as ClickHelp are now seen as increasingly essential to support the performance of modern companies.

It happens that many professionals do not see the need to develop documentation both at a high level (systems specification) and a low level (related to the source code), for example. For this reason, in many companies, the documentation of software products is often incomplete and outdated, when it exists.

In more critical situations, it is only in the minds of a few people, and they are the only sources of information. What will happen when these professionals are no longer on the team?

Taking this scenario into account, this aversion to documentation occurs due to some known aspects, such as:

  • Difficulty in developing and maintaining updated documentation;
  • The large volume of information to be managed;
  • Constant changes in projects;
  • Operating and financial costs involved.

Despite the existing challenges, it must be agreed that some level of information registration is necessary. Besides, there are also good reasons to use efforts in this endeavor.

Keep reading and meet some of them below.

1. Facilitate Communication

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Clear and objective documentation facilitates communication between everyone involved in the project. In teams distributed geographically, for example, the use of formal documentation helps to organize work, increases productivity, and improves collaboration between team members, customers, and other interested parties. In agile contexts, user stories can and should serve as documentation of the product developed, serving as a source of information since they are written in a clear and high-level language that facilitates understanding by everyone. Concluding that documenting does not make sense can have the opposite effect and limit communication instead of promoting it. There is no proper communication without the right documentation. This is a “natural law” in the modern corporate system.

2. Assist in Quality Control

All types of system documentation can serve as a guide for planning and executing Test activities. The requirements document can serve as a basis for the creation of the Test Plan in order to list all the activities to be performed, the production of Test Cases, among others. One of the objectives of the Software Test is to verify the product meets and complies with its specifications. Care that must be taken in this case is to ascertain the quality of this documentation, that is, if it does not have confusing information, ambiguities, incorrect requirements, among others, to ensure that the Reliability of the Tests is not affected. It is worth mentioning that the opposite is also true. That is, Test Procedures can be used as documentation through the information of the Test Project.

3. Provide users with help resources

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An easy to understand User Manual allows people to have an overview of the product and its functions, obtaining the necessary knowledge for its use. This type of material describes steps to use system screens, actions to execute business processes, and other information regarding software operations. We have some Cases at the Testing Company, where we developed this type of material, and it was used for the training and qualification of users.

4. Assist in Change Control

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Registering changes to a specific document makes it easier to control the maintenance performed on the system. In this case, the information can be updated with each new version generated, and they must be in line with what has been implemented. Configuration Management documents that describe procedures to be followed and tools to be used to control changes are essential because they register the processes used during the software maintenance processes.

5. Support Processes

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There are different types of documentation, such as technical specification, online help, user manual, description of use cases, business vision document, requirements specification, business rules documentation, and many others. Indeed, some of these materials may be used to support the execution of any operational procedure of your company.

Tip: There are collaborative tools of the type (WIKI) that assist in collaboration on projects and facilitate the creation and access to documentation in real-time.

As discussed, keeping documentation up-to-date is a significant challenge, and it is up to those responsible for understanding the importance and allocating a portion of the team’s time exclusively to this task.

Based on what has been exposed, each company must choose its way of documenting and the appropriate level of detail to extract the best results. Ideally, each organization should define the level of documentation that meets its needs and that it is useful and easy to understand by those who use it.

Highlighting the importance of documentation for the team responsible for the sector in a company is vital. It creates an organizational culture that will only benefit the business. Keeping everything in detail recorded excludes dependence on the area by exclusive individuals and ensures that the company’s documentation is based on purely technical solutions. The market’s turnover no longer affects the area’s results. Any changes, adjustments, and configurations can be understood by anyone who accesses the systems, in addition to giving the entrepreneur full knowledge of what was ordered to them.

In addition, IT documentation is vital to the security of a company’s technologies. The control of information, data, and people boils down to the need to monitor, know, and limit who, when, and how has access to information available in databases or systems in general. System registration and documentation are tools that ensure that your system is treated and developed professionally.

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About Marta Sebos