Documentation plans – where to start? Which technical document should you first write when starting to a new tech docs project? KB emailed me this question. When starting as a technical writer, it can be hard to know where to start writing, especially if many people have different documentations needs. Here’s how to get started.
Documentation Plan: Planning your technical documents
This is what I would do:
- Identify who will read the documents, e.g. sys admins, users, and/or developers
- Prioritize the most important documents first (and then do the rest if you have time/budget etc)
- Develop a Documentation Plan to outline what’s required
- Share it, get feedback, update and then
- Start writing
So, with that in mind, look at these and see which need to be written up.
Tip: remember to download your documentation plan template here
Software Requirements: Do I need to write the SRS?
Write these IF you plan to make changes to the software and capture how/who/where it will be done.
The SRS is valuable as it helps to keep track on EXACTLY how the app should work. I’d prioritize this.
Software Documentation Plan: What to write
Focus on the most valuable docs to your team internally, e.g. which docs help us maintain the app and resolve tech support issues. Postpone the others for now.
If you have time to write a documentation plan, use this template to:
- Identify the content
- Identify the format
- Estimate the page count, size etc for each document
- Outline cost estimates for the project duration
- Schedule resources to meet the documentation requirements
- Identify tools, number of licenses, and PC configurations
- Ensure documents are scoped correctly with the appropriate level of detail
Writing Sys Admin Guides & Work Instructions
This ensures that the apps run correctly and there are no ‘assumptions’ on how it should run.
User Guides: What other docs do you need?
If you have customers, then write this document. You can also create a Fact Sheet or Data Sheet if the customers are very technical but use your judgment.
Business Requirements: When to write
You don’t need Business Requirements if you have already passed this stage in the software development lifecycle UNLESS you have business analysts looking for these and your team lead has agreed to write up/update the documents
Remember, sometimes you don’t need to write ‘definite’ guides for each of these documents – just enough for the team to do their job.
Then get started, create a draft that covers the key sections, and when you have time expand the documents.
Does that make sense?