Do you need documentation?

Every company needs documentation. Well... not really. Read on why.

Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

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Every company needs documentation. Well... not really.

If you're a startup griding crazy to get your MVP out and get feedback, you couldn't care less about documentation.

If you have a product out and a couple of customers, docs are not that important. You can just ask around your team across the desk or on a Slack channel.

If you found product-market fit, got your first round of funding, and are scaling your team above 10, you probably also don't need that much documentation. You can just throw hours at it because there are so many of you right now compared to 6 months ago.

If you're a series A or B company with a couple of Ms in ARR, documentation starts to look attractive, but you can go without, no doubt.

If you just IPO'd, you're past 500 people. So much tribal knowledge lingering around... documentation is a problem, but there are workarounds. Just throw more salespeople into the picture. Revenue fixes everything.

But actually... your path was the most inefficient one possible, and documentation could've had the largest impact you could think of:

1. clearing misunderstandings among team members;

2. making the founders' vision clearer to themselves and to the whole company;

3. faster customer support answers;

4. faster or automated onboarding of new members;

5. less knowledge churn;

6. increased engineering productivity;

7. more stable run through the years;

8. less hassle in becoming a remote company when a virus hits out of nowhere.

I could go on... but you already know it. Documentation is how we build things.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do startups typically start considering creating documentation?
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Startups tend to start considering creating documentation once they've found product-market fit, received their first round of funding and are growing their team. However, it becomes particularly important once a company has matured to a series A or B company with substantial annual revenue or has gone public with more than 500 employees.
Why might a startup initially not prioritize documentation?
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A startup might not prioritize documentation in the early stages because they are focused on developing their MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and obtaining feedback. Also, when the team is small, information exchange is easily handle via direct communication or platforms like Slack.
How do companies often compensate for a lack of documentation?
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Companies often compensate for a lack of documentation by simply asking team members directly for information, using platforms like Slack for communication, or by throwing more hours at a problem or task. For large companies, it might involve hiring more salespeople to overcome operational gaps.
What are the benefits of having good documentation?
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Benefits of good documentation include clearing misunderstandings among team members, making the founders' vision clearer to the company, faster customer support, quicker onboarding of new members, less knowledge churn, increased engineering productivity, more stability over years, and a smoother transition to becoming a remote company if needed.
How is the importance of documentation ultimately characterized?
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The importance of documentation is ultimately characterized as being how businesses are built. It allows processes to be streamlined, misunderstandings to be clarified, and growth to be more stable and efficient.