A Need to Record
All the larger organisations that I have worked with have an effective document management
system. Smaller organisations sometimes overlook the need for documentation.
Every organisation has a need to share information across both space and time. In terms of
space, it often means members of a team, or suppliers, or customers. In terms of time, this
is necessary for product maintenance. While a great quantity of information is ephemeral and
can be shared verbally or informally by e-mail, other types of information require a much
longer life. Product specifications are an example of this.
Where I see a need for documentation, but the client lacks a document management system, I
write it. Examples include
- User guides
- Technical guides
- Fault reports
Cases of New Documentation
I was responsible for providing support for electronic price signs at a number of petrol
stations. There was at the time no formal system for recording faults or their resolutions.
To that end I devised and used a form which included the following information:
- Location and date
- Actions taken to resolve the issue
- Future actions, if any
- Any other relevant information
Every system that I produce always comes with a user guide. It might only be one page long,
but it provides information and guidance to people who will need to use it, even if it is
a part of a larger system, such as a point-of-sale equipment. The users typically laminate
the guide and leave it beside the cash register. Larger systems always come with a user guide
provided in electronic format. Such guides always include step-by-step procedures on how to
perform standard tasks, and may include background information on the internals of the
The technical guides that I produce describe the major operations of the system being
documented. They always include a step-by-step section on how to build the system, including
the software tools and hardware components where relevant. In the cases where the system is
expected to have a long lifetime, copies of the software tools are included in the
documentation set. This permits the maintenance of legacy systems.