One of the most frequent questions we get at ITBOOST is:
"What are the industry best practices for creating customer documentation?"
So! Since we hear it so often, it seems only logical to create a help article about it!
Your documentation can be one of the most important assets, so the more effective and efficient you can make them, the better.
Let's look at a few best practices we highly recommend:
The Pointer Sisters said it best in 1984: "It's totally Automatic."
Quite simply put, if you don't have to do something because it's automated, it makes it easier and more efficient. Would you rather spend hours cutting out pieces of confetti for a parade, or would you rather automatically find a big bag of confetti -- all pre-cut and ready for you?
ITBOOST offers many different automation options. We highly recommend you take advantage of them.
When you're setting up your automation, is the first thing you think of to automate going to be that one tiny task you or someone in your office has to manually do twice a year?
We hope not. Otherwise, you're going to be doing a lot of unnecessary manual work in the beginning.
Think about the tasks you and your team have to go through every day, or worse yet, multiple times a day! How nice would it be to have that work automated -- and sooner than later??
Remember: work should be about coming in and being happy to be there to do the work. Not to sit around for hours at a time constantly entering tedious and boring repeated information. Don't do that to yourself. Let ITBOOST take care of the tedious and boring stuff up-front -- we don't mind. We can take it!
Got that done? Great! So, what's next?
Well, now that you've got the repetitive stuff automated, why not start adding the stuff that takes the longest to do? (which is usually the least fun stuff to do!)
Anything that's involved or complex or time-consuming is a perfect candidate for automation. You don't want to do it, your team doesn't want to do it, but hey! ITBOOST doesn't mind doing it! Nope! Not even a little bit.
And best of all, ITBOOST gets to bypass those pesky little problems like "user error," and "typos," and other little mistakes we tend to make. ITBOOST can make sure all these tasks are done in a consistent, uniform fashion each and every time.
STANDARDIZE, STANDARDIZE, STANDARDIZE
It goes pretty much without saying that -- if your team "speaks the same language" (industry-wise, that is), they'll be able to work together much more efficiently and effectively.
So, if Phil decides to name a file "Process List 1 (JG)" and save it on the network, then Warren looks for "Jenkins Group Process List," he's going to have a harder time finding the file, thanks to Phil and his "efficient" use of abbreviations, even though no one else in the company knows he's doing that.
Buuuuuutttt . . . IF your company standardizes its workflow (e.g., mandate a standard file naming format, such as "Jenkins Group - Process List 9-18-18"), then both Phil AND Warren know exactly what to look for when they need to pull that file up, regardless of its original author.
So, how does this "standardization" take place? Well, it starts with you, friend. And, our good ol' buddy, the style guide. If you're unfamiliar with them, it's basically a "work bible" - a document which documents how you document your documents.
. . . did that make sense?
It's simpler than it sounds. We recommend creating a document style guide in this order:
- Have a meeting with your managers to discuss the need for standardization and the creation of a document style guide
- Ask them to have a meeting with the groups they manage to hammer-out the ideal standardizations for each aspect of each group
- Decide where to store this/these style guide(s) - someplace easily accessible by all who need to reference them
- Once you've cemented the style guide(s), make it a requirement to use and offer incentives/rewards for consistent usage
Make sure your managers know to include as many of their team members as possible in the creation of this style guide. Assistance with its creation will encourage them to champion the cause of everyone using it. And of course, the more who advocate the use of it, the better!
GET A FRESH SET OF EYES ON THINGS
Most writers know all too well:
"The most difficult work to proofread is your own."
Why? Because it was your brain that made the mistake, your brain re-reading the same work, and your brain totally missing the mistake because it missed it in the first place.
However, when you get another to review your work, since their brains are wired totally differently, then their brains will probably catch the mistake, along with any others you might've made.
It's the very same in almost any other business. Once you've got your automation flowing for any of your routine tasks, ask someone else to try it! If they can get through it with no problem, or without seeing a mistake, you're golden!
Buuuuuttttt, if you happen to have a typo in your automated text, or something incorrect that's set to be repeatedly generated, then it's likely their fresh set of eyes will pick up on that, saving you a lot of hassle, extra work, and grief!
MAKE IT FUN
You know, they're called "BEST Practices" for a reason. That being said, some folks just like to do things their own way, march to the beat of a different drum.
. . . in other words, do things weird.
And hey, we're not one to try to squash individuality and uniqueness. Far from it! But, we MAY be one to squash stubbornness and doing things the overly time-consuming way. You may have some folks in your team who want to stick to their guns and keep "plugging away" the way they've always done it, even though there's a faster, easier (more automatic) way to do it.
So, maybe give them some incentive to play nice-nice with ITBOOST? Offer some rewards for your team members who consistently utilize the system to its fullest advantages -- and add even more incentives for documenting the way they did it to share with others.
Hey, if your whole team is scratching each others' backs, how could you possibly be more productive, right?
MAKE "HANDY-DANDY" GUIDES
Yeah, like this. The thing you're reading right now.
Sure, walking someone through HOW to do something is great, but if you have it written down, complete with visual aids and guides, that's -- kind of like automating your training programs, right?
Speak casually, avoid a ton of words in a single paragraph. Add images and animated GIFs to mix things up and show them what you're talking about. Once you've got things as self-explanatory as possible, that effectively removes you AND your team members from the equation for the most part. Sure, you may have to answer a few questions later, but how nice will it be to direct the newbies to your guides, and then have them ask questions while they already know about 90% of what they need to know, rather than starting fresh with someone who knows 0% of what they need to know?
All of these are great best practices to get your team rolling with ITBOOST more quickly, more efficiently, and-- to be totally honest -- more joyfully.
We all need to find joy in our work, or else it's not "work," it's just a daily grind. And we don't know anyone who wants that.
Do you . . . ?
Need some more help? Click here to head back to the knowledgebase for some more handy-dandy tips.