SEPTEMBER 9, 2021
9 min read
In light of rapid digitization processes, being involved in paperwork might indeed appear redundant for inexperienced organizations. Undoubtedly, anyone unfamiliar with the managerial side of software engineering would feel a bit puzzled after hearing about technical documentation, yet there’s no need to worry. Dashdevs are here to shed light on this phenomenon, its types, purposes, and implications. According to a recent survey, 62% of sales and 57% of marketing units in large-scale corporations are already using digital documentation tools. Nevertheless, the same source reveals that only 53% of the finance industry and 41% of IT players worldwide refer to documentation as a helpful tool that minimizes cost during production.
Most departments not directly engaged in software engineering employ file sharing and e-signatures. These have already become sufficiently widespread to transfer from the geek world to the average person’s dictionary. In turn, the Open Source Survey, in cooperation with GitHub and interested parties from academia, has conducted another valuable research. More specifically, 93% of its respondents confirm that outdated or incomplete documentation implies a notable issue that hinders multiple corporate processes, whereas 60% of contributors consider documentation unnecessary.
Luckily, companies with decades of experience in the market confirm the benefits of maintaining quality software documentation. For example, the Atlassian team points out that keeping a record of development processes ensures adequate interdepartmental communication, simplifies onboarding, enables knowledge sharing, increases accessibility and accountability as well as allows quick contribution. When your coders employ app development software to build new systems, they need to maintain associated documentation for managers, teammates, and newcomers to access files without blockers. So, if you’re here to find ways to improve not only the software engineering perspective but also the communication behind it, you’re the lucky one.
Hitting the Corporate Jackpot with Different Documentation Types
Sooner or later, every company faces a choice of whether to pursue the Waterfall model or get involved in the Agile approach to documentation. While the former is more welcomed for projects presupposing fewer changes initiated on the go, the latter implies flexibility and quick responses. You might have already guessed that young organizations more often apply the Agile model under the current fast-paced business environment in order to gain a competitive advantage. It’s no good dealing with a massive pile of documentation prior to launching a certain project, as is the case with the Waterfall approach.
If your mental perfectionist exults every time you run into a classification, here’s another one. App-related documentation (often referred to as project documentation) has two forms, each with its unique documentation types:
1.1. System documentation (agile product roadmaps, testing documentation, product requirement document, design and architecture, source code document, UE design, and the rest);
1.2. User documentation (system administration and end-user documentation).
2.Process documentation (standards, schedules, plans, reports, working papers, etc.)
Speaking about product documentation in IT companies, we usually refer to information regarding requirements, architecture, and the technical perspective of a software product being under development, let alone user guides. Most organizations delegate the responsibility of authoring documentation to the documentation team, while there’s also a percentage of leaders engaging in outsource writing. Today it’s nigh impossible to win the competitive advantage without maintaining requirements documentation, inasmuch as all team members need to be aware of limitations, hardware specs, functionality, and compatibility of the end product. The same concerns architecture documentation that outlines the system’s constituents, data flow components, and the like.
As evident from the term itself, process documentation encompasses any literature produced during the development cycle. These are necessary to keep the production process tidy, manage time and human resources efficiently as well as not lose the workflow rhythm. What’s even more significant, the financial resources for incorporating a new feature to a nicely documented project are about 30% lower as opposed to cases when leaders ignore this crucial aspect. No one wants to decipher the Sumerian cuneiform of legacy code without dictionaries, right? Just be sure — regression defects are minimized when you thoroughly document each step.
Documentation Maintenance and Collaboration with Product Managers
You don’t have to be present in the IPO market for decades to know that documentation maintenance has multiple points in common with product management. Despite the ubiquitous role of Product Managers in the fintech sphere, many of them continue to have a blurred vision of their responsibilities. In particular, Sherif Mansour, under the aegis of Atlassian, acknowledges that product management is still a vague concept in the IT world. Still, its role in helping prioritize development processes can’t be overstated.
No wonder why there’s a necessity for clean software documentation and its regulation by Product Managers. Collaboration is what really should matter for teams dealing with app development. Under the Product Manager’s surveillance, software documentation provides smooth onboarding, encourages accountability, and makes app development software more flexible. Planning, execution, and vision fall into the category of the most widely accepted responsibility areas assigned to Product Managers. In turn, they can be split into subcategories pertaining to the product requirements document (PRD), which include:
- Contact points;
- Use cases;
- Success metrics;
- Product vision.
If you want to make the development process a cakewalk, disregarding collaboration between the technical documentation writing team and the Product Manager isn’t an option. Simultaneously, working with outdated documentation sometimes is considered worse than having no documentation at all. That’s why the Product Manager must remain attentive to cope with their own documentation range. As a rule, it includes competitive analysis, product strategy and vision, specs and requirements, OKRs, KPIs, metrics, roadmaps, user journeys, and other product-related documentation. Interestingly, specs and product strategy are most important when it comes to ensuring adequate knowledge sharing and responsibility transfer between teams.
Software Requirements Documentation: Border between Code and End-User
Software requirements documentation (SRD) is a fundamental part of any application development project. It provides in-depth information regarding the features, supposed use cases, challenges, and other functionality peculiarities of a specific application. Beyond question, while working on the software requirements documentation, you should be careful because the process may easily morph into a cumbersome and messy time-eater. DevOps agree on the point that a good SRD must contain:
- An in-depth overview of the design specifications;
- References for testing;
- Feedback to the end-user;
- A clear vision of an issue to which a developed application is a supposed solution;
- Design constraints or other limitations.
Be it IOS or Android app development, teams within departments frequently change, given the rapid tempo of technological advancements. Maintaining software documentation presupposes less time spent exploring the codebase. Without a step-by-step description, reading through gigabytes of code written by previous developers can be compared to writing a sequel to a story with ten volumes. With coherent synopsis, it’s far more straightforward.
If you’re already working in IT or related domains, you’ve probably heard about DevOps. A model with an ambition (successful, we must admit) to subvert the paradigm implying the separation of the development and operations processes. In a nutshell, the DevOps philosophy serves as a common denominator between teams counting work hours in lines of code and those concerned with IT support. Nowadays, the rumor has it that static documentation quickly turns stale, whereas its dynamic counterpart only fosters productivity.
Is there a point in clarifying that support and management teams rarely know Python, Java, Scala, or React JS? Let alone users themselves who constitute the intended audience for the product under development. For the cases concerning the interconnectedness between engineers and specialists from other units, you can rely on source code documents (system documentation). Primarily, they provide information about how the code functions as well as explain data binding types, frameworks, security aspects, etc. At early development stages, these are as important as user personas, user scenario, scenarios maps, UX style guide, user story maps, etc.
What Are the Tools to Optimize Documentation in Software Development Life Cycle?
Almost every app development company is aware of BPMS. Standing for Business Process Management Software, this abbreviation embodies the quintessence of relief for leaders as it helps record, track, monitor, and analyze internal processes in real-time. There are multiple app documentation tools available in the market to optimize the development life cycle. For example, your organization can simplify all tedious documentation-related tasks by choosing ClickHelp, Bit.ai, or any other software designed for these purposes.
The modern fintech industry is abounding with successful tech players that offer creative solutions to mundane challenges. In app development, it’s vital to “transcribe” multiple processes simultaneously, ensuring that your end-user and the support team understand each new feature added to the application. At each software development life cycle, certain documentation is required. First goes developer documentation since software engineers must have a shoulder to rely on. These include API, README, release notes, and system documentation. Then goes user documentation, though sometimes these two types are being designed almost simultaneously. Tutorials, guides, and reference docs play a crucial role in making the product adaptable.
Thanks to new software documentation tools, not only software development but also app testing have become intuitive and straightforward. API allows developers to receive feedback from other teams almost instantly, communicate without barriers, and solve problems in real-time. As one of its forms, documentation helps engineers, along with other teams, to connect backend systems with IoT devices and applications through the API management platform.
What Should Software Requirements Documentation Contain?
To avoid miscommunication or violation of instructions during mobile app development, savvy people have come up with software requirements documentation (SRD). This useful document allows developers to match the design to user requirements and cases. From a structural perspective, a well-written SRD should contain:
- The application’s purpose and its general description;
- The whole range of the final product’s functionality;
- Non-functional components;
- Design limitations and software-related restrictions;
- Intended audience;
- Essential system features.
At the bare minimum, the list above provides the scope of primary elements necessary to include in your software requirements specification (SRS — the same as SRD). Although there’s no single correct route to guide employees through all these requirements, you can always derive inspiration from the fundamentals (see IEEE standard). Engineers rarely design circuits without a schematic blueprint, so documents like SRS function as a bridge between the customer’s requirements, production capabilities, and app development cost.
Where Is the Product Manager’s Niche?
Let’s imagine that a Product Manager was asked to find a log containing a one-year-old decision. In the Medieval era of IT, the crux of the problem was usually associated with alphabetically ordered folders, myriads of files, and probably megabytes of Word documents. Fortunately, today Product Managers can avail themselves of such tools as Jira and Confluence (or their alternatives) that have already earned the reputation of reliable systems. Consequently, the role of Product Managers in keeping app-related documentation clean and understandable lies in utilizing respective software to be able to return to any log at any time. In other words, the Product Manager’s niche implies standing at the center where UX, business, and tech collide.
Schrödinger’s Cat in a White Box or an Ordinary Cat in a Black Box?
Keeping a record of each feature implemented and being able to monitor all updates in real-time is a helpful tool when it comes to software development. Things can quickly get messy and confused without proper documentation as well as consistent project and product management.
In the app development realm, there’s a Schrödinger’s Cat that can remain in two possible states simultaneously. A single application can be examined from different angles — as a black box with inputs and outputs yet without any understanding of its internal logic or as a white box whose inner elements are easily inspected and configured. Depending on the end-user’s needs, of course.
In case you’re facing any issues related to maintaining software documentation, contact DashDevs for professional assistance. The question is whether you want to save time and expenses disregarding documentation or spend extra resources to build flexible, responsive systems that bring more value in the long run.