The Tenants of Documentation Management
As an organization grows, effective documentation management becomes essential. Documentation might include client notes, process illustrations, resources, etc. Effective documentation management is built on the following:
Documentation must be accessible to members across your entire organization (where appropriate). A standardized structure must be put in place to ensure all members know how and where to access specific documents. Accessibility also requires ease-of-access in the form of a centralized 'library', ideally held in the cloud where no particular access source is required.
In addition to a standardized, hierarchical structure, documentation should be fully searchable. Searches should support both in-document content searching and a tag-based keyword structure applied by the user.
The growth of an organization is likely to prompt increased collaboration across documents and therefore require proper version control to keep an accurate history of the documents evolution. Version control provides clear insight into who changed what, when and how, and ideally provides the ability to 'roll back' to previous versions.
Likely the hardest aspect of documentation management, the responsibilities of curation need to be determined and upheld to ensure your documentation repository is accurate, organized and lacks redundancy or out-of-date information. This is handled through periodic 'audits' either by a specific individual, your documentation librarian, or teams managing documentation respective of their functional group.
The Systems for Documentation Management
Over the past three years, we've utilized a variety of tools to help us in managing our documentation. So far, we've found most of our success with the following:
- Dropbox: Dropbox serves at the core of our documentation management. It holds an 'archive' of all our client work (i.e. design files, code, reports, etc.) and also houses documentation of our more 'refined' processes. It works well for those who favor a mix of local desktop access (in the form of speed) and remote accessibility (in the form of convenience).
- Google Docs: We utilize Google Docs for our 'real time' documents such as sales pipeline management, project pipeline management, etc. It's a fantastic for instances of group collaboration (during conference calls) and for quick note taking (such as during sales calls).
- Basecamp: As a web design and development firm, a considerable amount of our documentation lies in client communications. We've centralized our client communications within Basecamp, a lightweight and easy-to-use project management system.
Although the above systems have formed the foundation of our documentation management practices for the past few years, there are several applications we'll be keeping our eyes on as emerging tools:
- Google Drive: Google's answer to Dropbox.
- CloudHQ: Automated syncing and backup of your Dropbox, Google Docs and Basecamp content.
- Dropbox Automator: A tool that helps automate the process of storing documents from multiple sources and of multiple formats into Dropbox.
Maybe your company doesn't need to hire a full-time librarian and go back to the Dewey Decimal System, but spending some time to structure your documentation will help reinforce company processes and culture.