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What is documentation?
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What is documentation for businesses?

A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
19th December, 2023
7 min read
A folder with a page containing charts and graphs peeking out
A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
19th December, 2023
7 min read
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What is documentation?
Documentation vs Knowledge Base
Types of documentation
Why documentation is important
A step-by-step guide to good documentation

Knowledge is power. Discover why good documentation is so important and how to bring it to your organisation.

What is documentation, and what are the benefits of maintaining effective documentation in your organisation? If you don’t have a firm process, we’re here to convince you it’s time to change that because maintaining documentation can significantly enhance operational efficiencies and provide many other benefits.
If you’re already confident about the content you have and want to try to enhance how you store and distribute it, read our article on how to use Confluence for documentation.

What is documentation?

Documentation refers to keeping records, knowledge, instructions, and guidelines on a subject or process. In organisations, documentation provides a structured way to store and retrieve information of many types, including procedures, specifications, usage instructions, and much more.
Documentation ensures that information is conveyed accurately and consistently and needs constant revision and review to ensure it is always correct and complete.

Documentation vs Knowledge Base: an explanation

Documentation is a broad term encompassing all types of recorded information, while a knowledge base typically refers to a specifically structured library of organised information, often designed for easy access and retrieval.

Documentation offers easy-to-digest information on products, processes or functionality designed to help someone understand how it works or what it does. In contrast, a knowledge base is a library of information designed to solve problems, including information such as FAQs, troubleshooting/how-to guides, demos, glossaries, and user manuals. Specifically, documentation is one of the parts of knowledge found in a knowledge base.

Types of documentation

There are various types of documentation that most businesses should have. What documentation you keep is often industry-driven. For example, in education, you’d be expected to keep previous exam papers, while in healthcare, documentation would include medical records and treatment plans.
Every business needs documentation to improve efficiency, onboard new employees, comply with regulations, or enhance customer support.

Here are some documentation types you may have:
  • Technical: Includes detailed information about a product’s design and is typically used internally by the development/ engineering team. It may have code examples, troubleshooting guides, and schematics. Some documentation may be suited to technical support or customers experiencing technical issues.

  • User: Tends to be external and customer-facing items, including user manuals, quick start guides, FAQs and tutorials.

  • Project: This records the planning, execution, and results of a project to ensure transparency, accountability, and future reference, consisting of project plans, reports, schedules, and documentation of project scope and objectives.

  • Legal: Contains essential information, such as contracts, agreements, and licences with customers and suppliers.

  • Business Process: Describes workflows, procedures, and processes within an organisation and can be accessed to find organisational plans, flowcharts, roadmaps and similar critical documents.

  • Compliance: Crucial for any business wanting to stay on the right side of legislation, including details of policies, procedures, and audit reports to demonstrate adherence to standards.

  • Training: Provides training materials for employees or users, encompassing training manuals, videos, and interactive modules for skill development, usually most often used during onboarding.

Why documentation is essential

There are many reasons why documentation matters, but here are three:
  • It encourages employees to access information independently, fostering self-sufficiency.
  • It promotes quality control by setting clear standards and procedures, ensuring that teams meet quality benchmarks.
  • It helps organisations retain and maintain knowledge long after employees leave.

A step-by-step guide to good documentation

What are the elements of keeping clear and organised documentation? In our opinion, it’s a considered, consistent approach backed by the right technology.
  1. Understand the gaps in your organisation, e.g. a need to document more processes or procedures to have clarity on what you hope to achieve with your documentation.

  2. Select the right technology. Documentation tools and platforms are here to help with creating and managing your documentation. The right document management systems aren’t just repositories; they ensure that the knowledge you store is collaborative and ever-adapting. Ensure you use technology that is designed to protect you against data loss, with plans for disaster recovery and solid admin controls.

  3. Establish documentation standards. You need guidelines and frameworks for teams to work with, from templates to naming conventions and storage rules for the perfect document hierarchy. Lay the foundations for easy access and maintenance. Ensure version control and tracked changes are in place.

  4. Create and launch. Work with multiple business stakeholders to contribute and review content before you launch.

  5. Review. How is the documentation being received and used? Do you need to go back and update to a more intuitive navigation structure or hierarchy? Allow and encourage feedback.

Ready to make documentation a priority in your business?

The importance of documentation cannot be underestimated. Affecting productivity, profit and procedures, it’s well worth ensuring that you prioritise and invest in documentation best practices. It’s a great time to get started on your work management journey.

Learn more about work management

Ready to change how you think about collaborative work management and knowledge management?
Written by
A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
Content Writer
Elaine has established herself as a respected authority in the HR industry and uses her experience gained as the head of marketing in the employee rewards and recognition software sector to inform her reporting.