Creating technical documentation is nobody’s favorite pastime, but as an entrepreneur, manager or dedicated employee, you’ll definitely reap the benefits of doing it. More specifically, your business will benefit from it.
Technical documents are created for several reasons, which we’ll dive into in this article. Let’s get straight to the benefits.
1. It becomes easier to resolve issues
Just follow protocol! Problem-solving often requires creativity, but sometimes a step-by-step, tried-and-tested approach is all you need. No more wasting time on finding the right way, or remembering how you solved the issue last time: with proper technical documentation, you can fix issues faster than ever.
These technical documentations help your employees get rid of bugs and bumps in the road, but can also help your customers who might be struggling with your app or product.
Technical documentation doesn’t just help resolve issues, it can also play a big role in preventing them. Let’s say you’re creating the technical documentation for your new product, which works with a few systems.
If you connect the dots on paper first, you’ll be able to identify bottlenecks in integration points. This allows you to smooth things out before it gets to your customers and becomes a real bug.
2. You rely on people’s knowledge, not their presence
Many organizations have incredible talent on board that helps them grow and develop their products. But that talent might get a job offer elsewhere one day, or chooses to go on sabbatical, or retires.
You can’t keep calling them. If you are afraid that some jobs can’t be done or are more difficult to do when someone in specific takes a sick day or hands you their two-weeks notice, it’s time to get some technical documentation in place.
3. It helps to make decisions easier
When you make a habit out of using and creating technical documentation, and keeping it up to date, it will help you perform better in future projects. When documenting what decisions have been made, and what the eventual outcome was, will create a clear roadmap for future projects that involve similar decisions.
4. It saves your employees time
Do your employees spend significant amounts of time explaining to users where a button is or how something works—because there’s no manual? Or does the training for a new employee take longer because they repeat questions, and get a different answer from everyone?
Surely, there are more roads that lead to Rome, but it’s best if you all take the same road. Technical documentation improves efficiency. More specifically, it allows your employees to focus on what really matters. That means less answering questions about how to turn the product off and on again, and more troubleshooting customers who are really experiencing issues.
As far as training goes, you can give your new employees a clear roadmap of what to do, which they can always consult before stepping to a peer for an explanation. Plus, this ensures that everyone has a similar way of working, which will speed things up in general. People can pick up a job where someone else left off, because everyone does it in the same way.
5. Strong technical documentation means less support costs and time
If you think creating good technical documentation costs too much time and effort, wait until you see how much time it takes to explain to people how something works over and over again.
Your customer service team shouldn’t be answering questions that can be found in technical documentation. If you see a lot of questions being repeated, it’s time to sit down and create technical documentation around them, so customers can find the answers without picking up the phone.
6. Solid technical documentation improves future projects
Have you ever finished a project and looked at it and thought: Wow, that turned out way better than expected? Then you celebrate, jump on another project, until one day, something similar comes along. You think back on the success you had on that first try, and then panic. You have no idea how you guys did it.
Granted, creating technical documentation for projects can be a time-consuming and very unexciting job, but it ensures that you learn from your successes—and your mistakes.
7. It improves communication with stakeholders, employees and customers
While verbal and individual communication is great, it is also a huge source of misunderstanding.
When we see something on paper, it becomes easier to understand. Plus, we can revisit it.
On one hand, strong technical documentation will help you pitch new ideas. You can fit your innovation into the existing documentation, so investors and developers alike can comment on it.
Moreover, it prevents he-saids-she-saids between people. Whether it’s a conversation with a customer or an employee, having technical documentation to fall back on will give you a solid foundation for any arguments or misunderstandings to build on.
8. Technical documentation could give your sales a little nudge
Especially with problems that are difficult and technical, customers want to know as much as they can before they hit Buy now. Why not make the technical documentation about how to use the product readily available for anyone?
This will help you give people a real taste of what it’s like to use your product, and what support they can expect. Strong technical documentation can help take away any doubts and win people over who aren’t sure about how your product works.
So, where could you use technical documentation?
If you like what you see in the benefits mentioned above, your mind is probably already trying to think of places you could implement technical documentation. We’ll give you a push in the right direction with some examples of where technical documentation is used most:
- Training programs for smooth onboarding: you can include frequently asked questions, how-tos, and roadmaps of how to do something or whom to talk to. This doesn’t have to replace one-on-one training at all, because some personal contact still makes all the difference, but it’s a great resource for new hires to fall back on if they don’t want to send their manager a message on Slack for every little question. It gives them more independence, and saves you time.
- User manuals for clients: you might think your product, customer portal or app explains itself. That’s probably because you built it, and engage with it every day. For a lot of customers it can be a bit tricky to navigate their way through it, or they’re not entirely sure what the best way to use a product is. Take away any doubts and empower your customers to do it all by creating a user guide that covers all the basics and lays out clear pathways.
- Workflows for employees and teams: a little creativity is appreciated a lot, but sometimes you just want your employees to follow a certain workflow. That way, others can take over any time, and know what’s coming next.
- Guidelines for programmers and developers: software development thrives when there’s strong technical documentation available. It makes it easier for everyone to work together and find what to do when there’s a bug.
There are no strict rules on what falls under technical documentation and how to write it. Identify what your employees or customers would appreciate by simply asking them, and analyzing the most-asked questions.
How to write strong technical documents
The world’s technical plus documentation rarely spark joy in anyone, and you might even fear it. You might now know how to structure the document, and how technical should it be anyway?
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, nor do you have to overcomplicate it. On the contrary: good technical documentation isn’t difficult to follow, but is simple and easy to understand. The goal of it is not to impress, but to help.
In Slite’s Technical Documentation Guide, you’ll find great dos and don’ts on creating technical documentation. For instance, it doesn’t need to be full of jargon or long-winded sentences that show how knowledgeable you are—it should help the reader to put what’s on paper into practice.
There are countless templates and examples out there that can help you get started, especially if you struggle with determining a structure and deciding what needs to be included.
Keep in mind that the more technical documentation you create, the better you’ll get at it. Moreover, technical documents can be improved as you go. You’re not working with marble where each change is permanent: you can make them living documents that everyone can contribute to.
Get started with technical documentation, the right way
Our last piece of advice is to start small, or create technical documentation for a project that has already been completed. That way, you’re playing it safe, and it is easier to identify what you want to include.
Ask yourself: what frameworks and roadmaps would’ve been good to have when we started this project? What should have been put in writing that could have prevented some of the troubles we ran into.
Once you have that, see how you can use this knowledge for a future project. Good luck!