effective documentation

How to create documentation your team will actually use

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  • Productivity

What good is documentation if you don’t use it? Hint: not much. 

Documentation is often an afterthought in many organizations, and it’s understandable why. Some common frustrations with documentation are that it can be time consuming to create and maintain, it can become outdated easily, it’s often inaccessible, and more.

The result: poor documentation that gets proverbially shoved in a drawer and forgotten.

But it’s worth your time to get it right. Effective documentation creates alignment across roles and teams, fosters innovation, and supports a foundation of shared knowledge that teams can build on over time instead of starting from scratch. In fact, when done right, documentation can actually be a driving force behind better decision-making, clearer communication, and efficiency. 

Below we’ll cover documentation best practices and show how Lucid products can help.

Why is documentation important?

The purpose of documentation is to centralize an organization’s ideas, information, and processes and make them accessible throughout the organization. Effective documentation serves as a single source of truth for teams and leaders to reference and align with. 

When you’re juggling dozens of tasks, writing down your process can sink pretty low on the priority list. But, like brushing your teeth, neglecting the habit can lead to some painful results. Whether a team member is out sick or you’re revisiting an old project, without documentation, you may be missing key information. 

Documentation gives teams the understanding and context they need to take ownership and make decisions. 

Effective documentation: 

  • Helps you maximize software and data investments.
  • Helps align teams on projects and processes.
  • Streamlines onboarding so new team members can quickly get up to speed.
  • Reduces dependencies, so absences or turnover don’t impact organizational knowledge or efficiency.
  • Improves consistency and quality across tasks or projects by providing a clear, repeatable process to follow. 
  • Helps teams create a living blueprint of their business so they can reference where they’ve been and decide where they’re going.

Done poorly, documentation (or lack thereof) contributes to a leak of valuable knowledge from the business, leading to miscommunication, inefficiencies, and duplicative work.

How should organizations approach documentation?

Instead of creating documentation at the end of a project, organizations should adopt a mindset of continuous documentation. Your documentation should be a living blueprint of your business that relays tribal knowledge that’s critical to the way teams and businesses function on a day-to-day basis. 

In other words, documentation shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it process. Instead, organically leverage the work you’re already doing to make inherently good documentation as you go. By integrating documentation into your day-to-day workflow, you can ensure the information is always current and incorporate the feedback and experiences of all relevant stakeholders throughout the process. 

How to make documentation work for you

Make it visual

Including visuals in your documentation can make the information easier to understand and simplify complex or technical documentation. In fact, people process visuals 60,000x faster than words. And team members perform 323% better when instructions include visuals.

Consider adding visuals like diagrams, flowcharts, graphs, and images to communicate documentation more clearly. The Lucid Visual Collaboration Platform makes it easy to visualize documentation. Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard where you can record team ideation and strategy sessions. Lucidchart makes diagramming processes and systems simple. Lucidscale allows you to auto-generate models of your cloud architecture.

Make it effortless

One of the biggest hurdles to effective documentation is that it is time consuming and tedious to create. And too often, people create documentation simply because they’re “supposed” to. This leads to poor documentation and frustrated team members.

But documentation should not be a task after you’ve already done the work. Instead, documentation should be an ongoing process where you “show your work” as you go.

Lucidspark lets you show your work from start to finish so others can visually track your thought processes and see how you reached your decisions. 

This helps team members easily gain context and quickly get up to speed. And because Lucidspark is cloud-based, your team can reference it whenever they need and pull the revision history to see changes and fill in any gaps. 

Share it

If a document exists, but no one can read it, does it make an impact? When you take time to create documentation, make sure people can access it later. Otherwise, your efforts are wasted and your team is left without the information they need. 

Look for a solution like Lucidspark, Lucidchart, and Lucidscale, which enable everyone to work together remotely in real time. Easily share documents with other team members via email, link, Slack, and more. Plus, in Lucidchart, you can integrate your data sources, so your documentation is always up to date.

Leverage templates

Even documenting as you go can be time consuming if you’re always working from scratch. Make it easy by using templates. 

For instance, if you’re documenting a brainstorming meeting, pull up a template with ready-made boxes for team members to fill in. Templates save time and create greater consistency between processes by organizing information in a predictable pattern each time. 

Between Lucidchart and Lucidspark, we offer more than 1,000 templates for custom documentation.  

Automate it 

Technical documentation can get complex and unwieldy fast, so focus on automating whatever steps you can. This is especially true when documenting cloud architecture, which can change quickly. 

Lucidscale takes the guesswork out of cloud architecture documentation through streamlined automation. Simply import your data and auto-generate a model of your architecture. Lucidscale enables you to apply filters and configure views so you can understand your cloud architecture, make data-driven decisions, and surface insights.

effective documentation

Learn more about creating a single source of truth for your documentation with the Lucid Visual Collaboration Platform.

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