At some point or another you’ve probably asked yourself? What separates failed projects from successful ones?
Insufficient resources, lack of team member commitment, poor leadership, insufficient communication, project scope creep, and much more could be the cause.
In the case of the software, the process of development can head into failure or incomplete initiatives due to poor technical documentation.
In this article, we’ll define software project documentation, outline its various benefits, and explore some best practices so you’re more confident in your next project.
What is software project documentation?
Software project documentation encompasses all documents produced throughout the entire software development process. At its core, it’s essentially a written record of the processes that exist to ensure teams stay aligned, customers feel supported, and the project stays on track.
Software documentation is the glue that holds your team together and gives the customer confidence in your final product. In an Agile environment, less is typically more — but that doesn’t mean it’s zero.
What software project documentation includes will vary widely based on many factors.
For example, for a company catering to low-tech clients, the documentation requires more detail and straightforward language. For clients who are well-versed in software products or are familiar with the jargon of technical writers, writing and documentation will look different.
Plus, the software itself will dictate the amount of documentation, as will your company’s personal preferences.
What types of software project documentation exist?
To lay some groundwork, it’s important to note that software documentation tends to perform one or more of the following tasks, sort of like a user manual:
- User documentation, which explains how to use the software.
- Process documentation, which creates a unified understanding of what the final product will be and how you’ll get there.
- System documentation, which demonstrates the software’s features and how it works.
The visual below provides a nice overview of what that looks like in action.
Process documentation usually involves planning, estimates, schedules, and maybe even a user story or 2. It’s basically whatever it takes to get the project off the ground and completed successfully.
System documentation is the technical side of things like the original code, how you’ll test it, and how you’ll maintain it. Each technical document helps maintain the software’s functional requirements.
User documentation lets your clients know what to do so they won’t have to rely on support for every little question. It’ll house FAQs, user guides, and whatever else the final user may need to ensure it lives up to the original software requirements.
What are the benefits of software project documentation?
Many people see software documentation as a necessary evil. They think it’s more admin work that has to get done and doesn’t deliver much value to anyone.
In many cases, they’re right. Plenty of companies go overboard with their documentation.
However, when done correctly, proper project documentation has plenty of benefits, including:
- Answers frequently asked questions, which puts less burden on senior developers, managers, and software support staff.
- Identifies key dates and milestones, which can help keep the project on track.
- Ensures the product vision aligns with the customer’s needs and the stakeholders’ greater strategy.
- Aligns the software development team because mock-ups, wireframes, and user stories act as guideposts to what the final product should look and feel like.
- Assigns clear ownership over key areas of the development process, so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
The list of benefits goes on, and so do the possibilities if you frame documentation in the right light.
5 best practices of software documentation
Now that you know what types of documentation exist and the corresponding benefits, let’s dig into 5 best practices for managing proper project documentation:
1. Centralize your documents
Documentation should be front and center at all times. It’s only useful when it’s easily accessible and designed for an enjoyable user experience. Any digging around or worrying whether you have the latest version just won’t cut it.
monday.com has you covered on the storage and creation side of things. With document storage, it integrates with dozens of other software applications, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, and more, so all your files feed into one central repository.
On the creation side, you’ve got monday workdocs, which make it possible to create simple or complex documents right in the monday.com ecosystem that house plain text, graphics, and even widgets linked to the boards you use to track your team’s progress.
2. Show, don’t tell
This is common advice in writing and software documentation.Rather than spending time creating complex PDFs or endless slide decks filled with text, it’s better to offer up visual alternatives like diagrams, flow charts, or wireframes. Showing people carries more weight because most people are visual learners by nature.
Good documentation will have a mixture of words and images.
If you find you’re getting text-heavy, try breaking it up with some text. Or better yet, try throwing in some video links to really simplify what feels complex to your team and users.
3. Be disciplined, not rigid
You’ll end up spending a lot of time on your roadmap, vision, and release schedules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pivot when necessary.
Your project team should pay close attention to the main user story and a few other pieces of technical documentation, but most project documentation can and will change over time. As new information comes to light or customer preferences change, you must adapt quickly.
As a project manager, you have the visibility and ease to do this with monday.com . Not only do you have all your tasks and documentation in one spot, but your entire roadmap is visible to the team. With a Gantt chart — shown above — you can easily shift your original plans in just a few seconds to adjust for changes.
4. Value simplicity
Simplicity can’t be overstated when it comes to software development. The more simple your software is, the more likely people will actually use it.
The same is also true for your process documentation. The less complicated it is, the more likely people will actually use it.
It’s also imperative that you keep maintenance in mind when creating any kind of technical documentation. You’re rarely going to create it once and never touch it again. It’ll require regular updates to remain relevant and useful.
Ideally, your documentation is lightweight, visual-rich, and uncomplicated.
That way, they’re going to be easier to scan and update when necessary. Agile software development is big on documentation that’s “just barely good enough” or JBGE. So take your time when deciding whether you need it at all in the beginning.
5. Leverage automation
There’s no reason not to create templates and lean on automation features if you’re creating documents frequently. It’s the future, and it’s here, so why not take full advantage of it now?
Yet again, we have another area where monday.com simplifies your day-to-day operations. With its unlimited automation recipes, you can actively take documentation tasks off your plate.
Tired of notifying the team over a meeting or email when you finish something? monday.com can take that task off your plate. The same thing goes for assigning documentation creation checklists, assigning owners, or automatically sending reminder updates.
The automation possibilities are truly infinite.
How to document your software project with monday.com
Typically, documenting your software project starts by gathering your project team and creating one central resource. In monday.com, we call that a board. It’ll house all the software development tasks alongside priorities, status, due dates, ownership, and more.
From there, you might get down to business or switch gears to begin on some software project documentation.
Here’s where monday workdocs come in handy. Your entire team can collaborate on the same document at the same time. It’ll live in monday.com but have complete shareability throughout your organization and with outsiders if you so choose.
You can leverage file sharing column types to keep everything neatly organized on your boards and embedded into your workflow. It’s even possible to comment on images, docs, and relevant tasks to get or give feedback and status updates.
Mapping your success
monday.com is a full-featured Work Operating System, or Work OS, that does far more than help create and store your project plan and software project documentation. It houses your entire team’s workflow, task lists, and dashboards.
You can track your Scrum boards, product iterations, and more all in one place, which saves you time, energy, and resources.
If you’re still on the fence, give our Software Development template a try. You can be up and running in a matter of minutes with that template, and we’re confident you’ll see the monday.com difference in no time.