5 Tips for Effective Documentation

Effective documentation for a project means a system will not only look good on paper, it will deliver in reality.

Inconsistencies and omissions in documentation can lead to cost and time overruns, projects being delivered out of specification – or worse!

Here are Denca’s 5 Tips to help make sure you have the documentation that will make your project run smoothly from start to finish.

1. Have clear objectives and specification of what you want the project to deliver

A customer should play a major part in developing a User Requirement Specification (URS). This will clearly outline the needs of the project and their expectations. This is vital to getting the project off on the right foot and can help avoid misunderstandings between customer and contractor later down the line.

From the URS the contractor can then develop the Functional Design Specification (FDS). This document is a statement of exactly what the contractor is going to do. Once agreed it becomes the cornerstone for the entire project.

2. Documentation check

Initial drafts of documentation almost inevitably contain inaccuracies and omissions. Take time and care to get the documents correct to save significant cost and delays later on.

However, with early drafts of documents, it’s easy to get sidetracked into issues around grammar and spelling while the priority should be to ensure the content is correct. Of course, all final documents should have the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed but this can be dealt with as a final step.

3. Make sure you are working to current standards and legislation

Standards Change. Sometimes, a reference to outdated information can result in new documentation that is unnecessary, inappropriate – or even both!

Remember, it’s important that documentation meets the requirements of current rules but treat it as a baseline. Ultimately, if you want your documentation to be worth more than the paper it’s written on, it needs to be as effective as possible, covering every aspect of your particular project.

4. Developing effective documentation is an evolutionary process

It’s common for requirements to evolve as a project progresses. A clear and comprehensive FDS is important as it provides a framework for the developments that inevitably happen. A good FDS that anticipates change can help the project adapt and integrate amendments rather than stalling the process, or throwing it into chaos.

It’s good to talk. Consulting with third-party contractors from an early stage of a project can bring insight which proves extremely valuable in avoiding future problems both large and small.

5. The documentation process is collaborative.

Customer input is vital. Every project is a collaboration between the customer, who knows what they are trying to achieve, and the contractor/contractors who have the knowledge and experience to design and deliver a workable solution.

Ultimately, if you want the best project, ensure you have good documentation. It’s the foundation for delivering efficient and effective products and systems.

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