What is the Purpose of Documentation?

2 minute read
Eric Anderson avatar
Today’s distributed systems are drenched in complexity. However, more often than not, there is no clear location for the storage of environmental documentation.Is the documentation stored on the file/print infrastructure? Sharepoint? QuickPlace? Is the essential information in your documentation close to the people that need it?Ironically, documentation as a practice and as an asset is consistently ignored. This is a fatal mistake on the part of any complex organization.Documentation empowers reproducibility of results. Documentation ensures that when your crack technician goes on vacation and a critical system crashes, your operation won’t be paralyzed.Oftentimes, however, the resource responsible for documentation is not as familiar with the rest of the environment as they should be.Therefore, said resource may be blindly following a process that they did not help develop and don’t understand. The more the engineer understands about the process and the associated dependencies, the greater the likelihood of success.Enter the Wiki. By Wiki-enabling your operational documentation, you improve information accessibility, document versioning, and centralization of your process documentation. Additionally, you can permit the engineers that actually perform the process to update that documentation without fear of inconsistency or inappropriate information in the documentation.The tool passively versions the document, resulting in assurance that you can revert back to any past version if necessary.Access control permits only authorized personnel to update the documentation.Be cautious, however, of limiting who can modify the documentation. By permitting all knowledgeable personnel to modify the documentation, you not only leverage the collaborative intelligence, but also remove the bottleneck that slows documentation progression. This openness results in high quality documentation at a development speed that cannot be matched by any single resource.Another major benefit to Wiki-enabling your documentation, is the passive contextualization of terms. The functionality of the WikiWord enables you to have one degree of separation between your current document and the clarification necessary to ensure understanding.The ability to solidify contextual understanding cannot be understated, in that contextual information is the foundation upon which the rest of the knowledge is built. Improve the reference documentation for your engineers, reduce reliance upon the “hero”, and improve the effectiveness of your organization.Whether that documentation is used for IT infrastructure or certification, the ease of management coupled with the contextual nature of the Wiki make it second to none.