The importance of documentation seems like one of those mythical tips for wellbeing that our grandparents told us when we were kids, like: “Don’t make silly faces because if the wind changes direction you’ll be stuck like that forever.” However, there’s nothing mythical about the benefits of documentation. In fact, over 21% of employee productivity per day is lost to a lack of proper documentation. Think about how much more productive you could be if you had a documentation method in place.
Documentation does not only make everything organized - it directly affects productivity and efficiency, keeps a track of progress, identifies areas of risk, and overall ensures that everyone is on the same page. Continue reading to learn about why documentation is crucial for success, and how to implement it in your management and processes.
Why is Documentation Important?
Documentation is imperative for any organization or project, regardless of size or industry. It helps teams stay organized and on track by providing a clear understanding of project requirements, progress, and any potential risks.
Documenting processes and procedures also enables teams to work together more efficiently, eliminating the need for duplicative work and ensuring everyone is aligned. Without proper documentation, confusion and chaos can arise, leading to miscommunication, duplicated work, and lost time - something that no business, no matter how successful, can afford to lose.
The Benefits of Documentation
There are many tangible benefits to adopting a rigorous documentation method in your workplace. Although it may seem laborious to implement documentation at every stage of a process, the benefits greatly outweigh the time spent documenting.
The time you will ultimately save from proper documentation can be spent much more wisely than the time spent searching for documents (which can take up to 2.5 hours from an employee’s work day!). Good documentation also:
1. Improves quality and process control
2. Eliminates duplicative work
3. Streamlines your hiring and onboarding processes
4. Keeps your teams on the same page
5. Improves training resources
6. Meets compliance regulations
7. Saves your teams time and energy
- Improves quality and process control
Documentation plays a crucial role in ensuring quality and process control. By documenting every step of a process, it becomes easier to identify inefficiencies, reduce waste, and maintain consistency. Proper documentation can also help identify areas that need improvement, making it easier to implement changes that will result in better quality and a more streamlined process.
- Eliminates duplicative work
Documentation can help eliminate duplicative work by providing a clear understanding of what has already been done. When employees have access to documentation, they can easily see what tasks have been completed, what needs to be done next, and avoid duplicating work that has already been done. This not only saves time and resources but also helps maintain consistency across the organization.
- Streamlines your hiring and onboarding processes
Proper documentation can help streamline the hiring and onboarding process by providing new employees with clear instructions on their roles and responsibilities. It can also help ensure that new hires receive consistent training, and have a clear understanding of the organization's policies, procedures, and culture.
- Keeps your teams on the same page
Documentation can help keep teams on the same page by providing a unified source of information. When everyone has access to the same information, it becomes easier to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This can help reduce confusion, increase collaboration, and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
- Improves training resources
Proper documentation can serve as an excellent resource for training new employees. When documented, policies, procedures, how-to guides, and best practices can be shared with new hires, making it easier to learn the necessary skills and techniques to perform their job effectively. This can help reduce the learning curve for new employees, which can help them become productive more quickly.
- Meets compliance regulations
Many industries are subject to compliance regulations, which require organizations to maintain certain records and documentation. Proper documentation can help ensure that organizations meet these requirements, avoid penalties and legal issues, and maintain the trust of their customers and stakeholders.
- Saves your teams time and energy
Having a single source of truth for documentation can save time and energy by providing a centralized location for all information. This can help ensure that everyone has access to the same information, reducing the need for multiple copies or versions of the same document. A centralized location for documentation can also make it easier to find the information you need quickly, reducing the time and effort required to locate the necessary information.
How Documentation Aids Project Management and Process Improvement
Now that we’ve seen how documentation benefits a business overall, let's dive deeper into how high level documentation leads to project success. If you’ve ever been part of a team project, you’ll know how convoluted the process can get without documentation. It’s kind of like skiing without skis: you’ll eventually get to your destination at the bottom of the mountain, but getting there won’t be easy.
Here are the four main ways that documentation will assist your project and help you reach your project goals as efficiently as possible:
- Documentation clarifies project requirements
Documenting project requirements is essential in ensuring that everyone involved in the project understands what is expected of them. Clear documentation helps to avoid misunderstandings and confusion that can lead to costly delays and errors, and ultimately leads to project success.
- Documentation aids in project management
Good documentation helps project managers to stay on top of project progress, identify areas of risk and ensure that the project stays on track. It is also essential in tracking project costs and ensuring that budgets are not exceeded.
- Documentation creates clear project plans
Clear, understandable documentation can help with creating a project and ensuring it runs smoothly. It allows teams to define the scope of the project, set goals and milestones, and allocate resources appropriately.
- Documentation helps team members work together
Documentation helps team members to stay organized and ensures that they have access to the information they need when they need it. It also helps them to collaborate more effectively and reduces the risk of misunderstandings and errors. Additionally, documentation helps team members to understand their responsibilities and the expectations of the project.
Documentation Best Practices
If you’re convinced about the benefits of documentation (which you should be by now), follow these best practices to ensure your documentation is effective and efficient:
- Define documentation standards
Establish clear guidelines and standards for documentation, including document format, naming conventions, version control, and file organization.
- Keep documentation up to date
Regularly review and update documentation to ensure that it reflects current processes, policies, and systems.
- Ensure accuracy
Document information accurately and precisely, avoiding any ambiguity or vagueness that may lead to confusion or errors.
- Use a consistent tone and style
Use a consistent tone and style across all documents to maintain a professional and consistent image.
- Make documentation accessible
Ensure that documentation is easily accessible to all stakeholders who need it, whether through a centralized document repository or other means.
- Collaborate and communicate
Encourage collaboration and communication among team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all information is captured in the documentation.
- Regularly review and audit documentation
Regularly review and audit documentation to identify gaps, inconsistencies, or areas for improvement.
Top 5 Documentation Management Systems 2023
When it comes to documentation, your efforts will be wasted without a Documentation Management System. Here are our top 5 picks for the latest documentation software that will make you and your team’s jobs a lot easier.
Confluence is a collaboration and documentation tool that allows team members to create, share, and collaborate on documents in real-time. Confluence offers templates, version control, and task management features.
Guidde is a collaborative tool that helps teams and individuals capture and organize video documentation for any software or process.
ClickUp is a project management and collaboration tool that includes features such as task management, document collaboration, and time tracking.
Monday.com is a cloud-based project management platform designed to help teams manage their tasks, projects, and workflows in a collaborative and visual way.
PandaDoc is an all-in-one document automation software that helps businesses to streamline their document workflows and automate the creation, delivery, and tracking of various types of documents such as contracts, proposals, and quotes.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you have no excuse to not have a great documentation method plan in place. Choose a Documentation Management System, follow our best practices, and sign up to take your documentation to the next level. Happy documenting!