As your business grows, so too does your need to document everything. And this doesn’t just apply to the software you use, but your workflow, networks, services, users, and nearly anything you use to keep the wheels of commerce chugging along.
Thing is, you don’t want to just cobble together your documentation using a word processor or spreadsheet. Sure, that might work okay as you first start out and you might even make that rudimentary system work by saving those documents on a shared directory or cloud service. But eventually, your business is guaranteed to outgrow such a simple process. When that happens, your company will need the right tools in place to make the documentation process seamlessly grow along with you.
Fortunately, you won’t have to spend a ton of money on such a system, as there are plenty of tools available that can help bring your documentation to the next level. Of course, if you have the budget, you could always hire a third-party, outsourced development team to build a custom documentation system. However, if budget is an issue, here are some tools (most of which can be used for free) that are perfectly capable of giving your documentation a much-needed boost.
Let’s take a look at these tools.
A Wiki is one of the easiest solutions for your documentation. In fact, there’s even a Wiki platform built specifically for documentation, called DocuWiki, that can be used to document software, create knowledge bases, keep private notebooks, and create project workspaces.
Wikis are a great option for documentation because they are simple to use, can be easily deployed, and don’t have too many features to complicate the workflow. You can deploy a Wiki in your data center or via a third-party cloud host and even make them available for either only staff members or even the public.
You might wonder why a version control system would be included in a list of documentation tools.That’s because Git is a great way to share documentation between development teams. The primary reason you’d consider Git only for such teams is that its learning curve might be too steep for those who aren’t in the developer space.
But for keeping documentation of your development workflow, using Git is a great option. And because you can even create internal Git repositories, you don’t have to worry that your more sensitive documentation could fall into the wrong hands.
A CMS is a few steps ahead of a Wiki. Why would you choose a full-blown CMS over a more simplistic Wiki for documentation? The primary reason is you might need more features or want to integrate your documentation into other types of content.
One other reason to go with a more traditional CMS is that these tools are generally built to not only be extendable, but very user-friendly. Most people know WordPress (which could be built as a document management system), so the learning curve will generally be fairly shallow.
There are even document management-specific plugins for the likes of WordPress (such as Document Library Pro), that can turn a CMS into a powerhouse documentation platform.
This might seem like another tool that’s out of place. However, as you start to build your documentation system, you’re going to need to keep track of how things are going. For that, why not make use of a project management system. For example, you could create a kanban board and create cards for every piece of documentation that needs to be created. With that kanban board, it’s very easy to track the progress of each document from production all the way through publication.
But don’t think the project management tool will only be used at the onset of your documentation management project. In fact, that documentation will be in a constant state of evolution. This is especially true if your company is documenting software that is either sold or used in-house. Every time a new version of your software is released, the documentation will have to be changed. Why not keep track of that process with your kanban board?
If you don’t opt to use a CMS, Wiki, or Git, you should at least consider a cloud storage solution to house your documentation. At a bare minimum, this will allow your teams to access and modify shared documentation.
For this, you could turn to a simple solution such as Google Drive or DropBox. With either tool, your teams can easily collaborate on the documentation your company so desperately needs.
Dedicated Documentation Management System
If you don’t like the idea of cobbling together your own system, you could always either turn to a prebuilt documentation management system or have that third-party development team build you one.
If you’ve been putting off getting serious about documentation, now’s the time to address that head-on. Without proper documentation, your staff and teams will struggle to work efficiently. And when new team members are brought on board, getting them up to speed can be a real challenge without proper documentation.
With the tools listed above, you should be able to piece together an outstanding documentation platform to help keep everything moving forward.