Need to record   |   Cases of new documentation

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

  • Quotations
  • User guides
  • Technical guides
  • Fault reports

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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
  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • Actions taken to resolve the issue
  • Future actions, if any
  • Any other relevant information

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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 system.

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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.

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