In this day and age, companies simply have to document their knowledge for more accessible learning, information sharing, and working. Doing business without documentation isn’t an option.
Lacking internal documentation can cause many problems for your business, starting from decreased productivity and engagement to monetary losses. Instead, you should document and manage your knowledge in a way that helps you use it well.
Let’s look into the five types of internal documentation you need to have to keep your employees informed and your business running smoothly!
Every company has to document its activities and keep instructions on how they do business.
Organizational docs are even necessary for successfully running a company, as they include articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws, and shareholder agreements.
But that’s not all. They should also include information about the company mission and business goals.
You probably have these documents printed somewhere in your office, or at least you should.
However, not knowing where they are and thus not sharing them with others might be setting you back.
McKinsey claims that proper document management can save a company $215 million, a third of its yearly expenses. If you want to save this kind of money, you must invest in preserving your organizational documentation.
So let’s see what organizational documentation is all about.
These documents should tell your entire team what the company stands for, its goals, and how employees help achieve them. Thoughtbot, a software design and engineering consultancy, does this well.
Their playbook is publicly available, showing everyone what the company is about. After giving some general information, thoughtbot explains how they validate, plan, and design products and how they share knowledge.
But, organizational activities also happen within the individual teams themselves, so the teams should have their own versions of these files. What does each team do, and how? Besides, the employees have to have a schedule, as well as a list of duties, contacts, and team goals.
This information needs to be available for new hires to learn and existing employees to refresh their knowledge when working on a new task or project.
Once again, thoughtbot does this well by explaining what the team does.
Of course, the company has shared these files publicly, so there is no confidential information or guidelines for employees on how to do specific tasks, but that’s the type of content you should share with the team internally.
Suppose you make teams responsible for creating documentation about their procedures and daily operations. In that case, you’re taking that burden off individuals and organizing the process in a way that doesn’t waste anyone’s time.
On top of that, you’ll be giving people the information that lets them understand what you expect of them daily.
Without good process documentation, you can kiss productivity goodbye.
Your processes are the thing that makes your company function, that tells your employees what to do and when, and gives them guidelines to do their job.
Your team repeats certain actions during each process, and if you don’t write these steps down, someone might skip one or two, which could derail the whole thing.
Moreover, if you don’t have official procedures, everyone will have their version, often creating a need to double-check the information.
This process, in turn, leads to a loss of productivity because employees need to constantly verify they have the right information. The majority of employees have said that document verification negatively affects their productivity.
Duplicate, nonexistent, unorganized, or outdated docs cause even more problems for companies.
If you opt for documentation software that lets you document your processes, update the files quickly and share them with your team with ease, you will eliminate all those issues with a single solution.
Without a central source of information or knowledge sharing, employees will hold onto tribal knowledge, i.e., the insights they’ve gathered through experience, but new hires won’t be as lucky.
They’ll have to learn as they go and miss out on specific data. Besides, if the more experienced employees leave, you’ll lose their insights.
To prevent that, document your processes. You have many options to choose from, including how-to articles, checklists, or step-by-step instructions where you can easily explain how to get from point A to point B. The formatting is up to you, as it depends on what works best for your company.
Here are the aspects of work your process documentation should describe and explain:
- the scope
- inputs and outputs
- stakeholder involvement
- outlining processes
In other words, you should note every part of the process from start to finish, including possible exceptions and out-of-flow scenarios.
If you invest time and energy into creating such documentation for each process, you’ll see the results quickly. Your team will be more productive and engaged since they will be sure they’re taking the proper steps.
If you want to learn from your mistakes or repeat the success of a previous project, project documentation is essential.
Even if your team works well and doesn’t need instructions, you never know when they will forget information they don’t use in a process called the forgetting curve. The term stands for the act of people losing the knowledge they don’t use.
One of the methods that can help you stop the forgetting curve is continuous learning or revising critical information in intervals. You can achieve this through easy access to information.
Good internal documentation will ensure that your team always has a trusted single source of project-related information, guaranteeing that the project is done as well—or even better than—the last one.
- Business case or project idea
- Project charter or initiation document
- Project plan or projection
- Schedule or timeline
- RAID log or log of risks, actions, issues, and dependencies
- Status report or tracking
- Budget tracker or remaining funds
- Lessons learned review or points of improvement
- Project closure document or project summary
All these files will help your team get information fast.
Let’s say you need to know who is the project specialist on one of your many projects.
Instead of asking around and checking different files and meeting minutes, you should be able to log into your internal documentation base and see a list of everyone involved.
When you keep track of these files, you’ll be able to ensure your compliance and prove your efforts in case of issues. On top of that, these docs help you stay on top of the time and money dedicated to the project.
So, your team needs access to a single source of information regarding the project, which should also be a space they can all contribute to and implement changes that everyone else can see.
For example, if your project is experiencing a delay, the update should be visible to every project team member right away and not sent as one of many emails.
Timely updates are possible through software that sends notifications about page updates, ensuring no one misses them.
Your technical documentation needs to cover product information and requirements, development information, and everything your team, clients, and potential customers might want to know about how to use your product.
Even if you’re an Agile lover, you should know that documentation is critical. Yes, things change, but that doesn’t mean you should give up documenting tech specs and instructions because of upcoming changes.
Instead, simply find a tool that lets you update your documentation on the go and share the changes with your team instantly. That’s how you stay agile but also keep your processes documented.
Siliski says Stripe “runs on written long-form documents” and encourages everyone to create and take part in documenting.
Of course, once you know that documentation is a part of Stripe’s culture, their extensive public documentation makes a lot of sense. The instructions are clear, detailed, and current, offering everyone a look into Stripe usage and troubleshooting.
Some companies write their documentation in one software or program and then share it in another, thus wasting time and risking having more versions of the same file.
It would be wise to use software with a built-in code editor instead and be able to write code and other documents in the same place.
The more different coding languages your software offers, the better. You’ll be able to centralize and simplify document creation, even when it comes to coding.
Therefore, you can create documents like tutorials or software code straight from your knowledge base and easily share it with your team and customers.
After all, the point of technical docs is to help users by sharing the technical aspects of your work with customers who might need this data.
Access to it will help you decrease the number of support requests, improve customer satisfaction, and even earn you more money. Zendesk found that 82% of customers spend more with companies that let them find answers to their questions online.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to create and share your documentation through Archbee without asking developers for help, check out our guide.
Your HR team needs to keep all their documentation in the same place for seamless employee and work data processing.
The HR section of your knowledge base should include:
- a good employee handbook
- onboarding schedule
- training checklists
- different policies
- training materials
- development plan
- performance reviews
- compliance information
Of course, you can always add more documentation your company uses for HR because not all businesses follow the same blueprint. These are just some of the general docs most companies collect.
However, all of these files are not just data your HR team uses—it’s information your entire team needs. When your employees have a question about specific policies or their workers’ rights, your knowledge base should be the first thing they check.
This way, you’ll let people be more independent while saving time for everyone involved.
Basecamp, a remote-work tool company, understands the importance of HR-related information being available to everyone. Because of this, the company shared its handbook online.
Now, everyone on the internet can see different information on working for Basecamp, including practical data such as different types of health insurance and other benefits the team gets, company history, rituals, and employee expectations.
It’s not just Basecamp—many companies decide to make some non-confidential HR information public, like employee handbooks.
For example, Disqus’s culture book is available online, allowing anyone to get a glimpse of their company and culture.
The culture book doesn’t contain any confidential data and focuses on the general aspects of working for the company and what the new hires can expect from Disqus.
These two examples show that the company culture usually influences what you share with the public and what details you give out.
You must decide what you will share internally and externally, but remember to document your HR information and make it available for all employees.
The information you need to document varies from company to company, but the most critical aspects each business covers are organizational, process, project, technical, and HR docs.
Only then will you use your internal docs to their full potential and make the most out of your knowledge.