A great way to throw a rope around documentation (and the rest of product development) is to take the time to develop:
- Personas – A list of personas should map who reports to whom, and what pressures those personas are under. Personas are more than your direct users, but all actors in the system such as regulatory.
- Golden paths – Have recommended workflows for tasks worked out. Sure, for enterprise systems that require much customization to work there may be variables but even with those do not vary infinitely.
- Problem Statements – These articulate what problems the personas need to have solved.
Having your personas and golden paths mapped out is not ‘make work’. It really helps mature your doc set.
You will know what they do, who they do it for and what pressures they are under. This will help you explain why the periodicity and prioritization of occurs.
You can say when to run reports or under what conditions not just how. If you can explain to a user how to make their bosses happy, the explanation of the feature is more likely to stick.
The reader will get the ‘shock of recognition’ that your documentation – and product – really understands their jobs.
A word about personas
A personas map can sometimes take a while to generate. I’ve seen tears and arguments break out in meetings as we go over personas because it really exposes latent assumptions employees have about users, customers and even their understanding of the business context.
For clarity, a golden path is basically a function block diagram explaining the gross anatomy of a process. A typical enterprise grade product may end up with a hundred of these easily. Admittedly, many of these may be trivial.
So what. Who cares?
These are easy to scan and are high level enough that these don’t change that much with software iterations. What’s the value then? Support and account managers will love you
- Support’ll be firing these off to clients to say ‘this is the process’.
- Account managers will staple these to contacts to say ‘These are the processes that support will aiding you with. If you develop a new fifty step process for generating an invoice that’s great but our tech support team will be recommending these only.’
In other words, Golden Paths gets everyone singing from one songbook. Having golden paths AND personas supercharges both
Sales, Development and QA will love having personas and workflows. It will make coming up with a shared understanding of how users work the system for everything from mapping role-based access to understanding communications and accountability.