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Documentation: All You Need to Know

Introduction:

Till 1968 there was a field of professionals called documentalists. Since 1968 they are known as Information scientists. Now the question is what do they do? As the name suggests, the professionals who keep information in any form and any format about anything. And the job is termed as documentation.


Definition:

Documentation is storage of documents in any form and format. Generally, it is provided on paper, online, digital & analogue medium. CD, audio tapes, thumb drives are examples of the form of providing data. Nowadays though a hard copy is the hard to find, user guide, white papers are still available to provide documents. Web sites, software products, quick reference guides, online applications are other forms of data providing tools.

Procedures and techniques

The procedure of documentation generally varies from one sector, or one type, to another. In general, this may involve document of drafting, formatting, submitting, reviewing, approving, distributing, reporting and tracking, etc., and are convened by associated SOPs in a regulatory industry. It could also involve creating content from the very beginning. Documentation should be easily readable and understandable. If it is too long and too wordy, it may be misunderstood or ignored. Clear, short, familiar words should be used to a maximum of 15 words to a sentence. Only gender hyper-neutral word should be used and cultural biases should be avoided. Procedures should be numbered when they are to be performed.

Producing Documentation:

Documentation is the working space of technical writers & corporate communicators. Ideally, technical writers work in both the subject matter and also in writing and managing content (information architecture). Technical writers usually collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs), such as engineers, technical experts, medical personnel, or other types of clients to define and then create the collection of data (documentation) that meets the user's requirements. Corporate communications include other types of written documentation that is required for most companies.

Specializing documentation

Marketing Communications (MarCom): 

MarCom writers put efforts to convey the important offerings of the institution through a variety of print, electronic, and social media. This area of corporate writing is often engaged in responding to proposals.

Technical Communications (TechCom): 

Technical writers gather data of product or service of the institution. The technical publication includes user guides, installation a configuration manuals. Troubleshooting, repair, replace procedures are also the part of technical communications.

Legal Writing: 

This type of documentation is usually prepared by lawyers or paralegals who could be in private practice or retained as a corporate counsel, i.e. member of that corporate body.

Compliance documentation: 

This type of documentation decodes Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), for any regulatory compliance requirements such as safety approval, taxation, financing, technical approval & so on.

Documentation in Computer Science:

The following are typical software documentation types

  • Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • Requirements/ Statement of work/ Scope of Work (SOW)
  • Software Design and Functional Specification
  • System Design and Functional Specifications
  • Change Management, Error and Enhancement Tracking
  • Test of User Acceptance 

Typical hardware and service documentation types are as follows
  • Network diagrams
  • Network maps
  • Datasheet for IT systems (Server, Switch, e.g.)
  • Service Catalogue and Service Portfolio

Documentation includes such as the report of feasibility, technical documentation, operational documentation, log book & so on.

Tools for documenting software

Documentation is done using many tools and applications. Such as

  • Software Documentation Folder (SDF)
  • Software For Network Inventory And Configuration 

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