4. Document management

Documentation is necessary for any working format. Both office and remote employees use documents to solve their tasks. Although in remote mode the lack of documentation is especially drastic simply because there are no colleagues nearby to ask for clarification and therefore a person gets stuck in a task. To prevent this from happening, it’s worth documenting all the information necessary for work, both for each individual project and for the general processes of the company.

Overall, the documentation is important for transferring the knowledge so that nothing is lost and there is no need to constantly return to the same issues. It is especially true for teams from different time zones, which are often asynchronous. In these circumstances, documentation saves a lot of resources by making additional discussions unnecessary.

By default, it is customary to think that a manager, a team lead, or someone else in charge should deal with the documents, but not all the employees. Although, in fact, it is much better if the documentation is constantly updated in the process, so everyone should do it. For example, if you encounter an obscure problem and solve it, it is logical to describe this to other colleagues to simplify the process. We are talking about the culture of record-keeping that is important to implement in a company.

What to document and why

Common reasons for managing documents are simple: to increase the level of transparency and accessibility of information, to simplify the information exchange, and to ensure data organization and storage. Simply put, we create a knowledge base that is designed to help employees solve work issues.

For the new colleagues, it facilitates the process of joining the team. It allows beginners to feel more comfortable by easily receiving information about the company and its projects. It largely eliminates the questions like, “What is customary here?” and creates the feeling of a professional company. For example, we have a separate document that spells out what kinds of jokes are acceptable. Describing the issues that may seem slippery actually leads to a more comfortable work environment.

For the team as a whole, it forms the principle of transparency in the corporate culture. We increase the bus factor, that is, reduce the likelihood of project failure, for example, if a key developer drops out of the process. We make sure the knowledge, from the head of the developer or a manager, from tickets or discussions in the kitchen, is moved into a single space for all participants. In addition, we promote the general rules and values of the company while encouraging trainings and professional growth.

Here are some categories of information that can be recorded and made available to employees.

1. Company policies and procedures

These documents define the general working methods, procedures, and standards of behavior for colleagues. This includes information about the company and a list of projects, corporate values, and instructions for working with tools and common spaces. They also include descriptions of any other important issues that are related to the working life of the team and its comfort.

2. A list of employees

It contains positions, distribution by departments and projects, contact information, birthdays, and so on.

3. Project regulations

They secure the project management schemes and describe the processes, tasks, and details, as well as the functions of the performers. In some cases, you can record and store information in video format when it's appropriate and more convenient. Screencasts with voice comments are also suitable for working with the code, for example.

4. Learning materials

These include cases, guides, references, the selection of videos, the calendar of industry events, and so on.

The rules for creating and organizing documents can look a little frightening. But, in reality, one should not be afraid to make mistakes. In any case, having poor documentation is better than having none at all. The most important thing is to start creating it.

How to organize the storage

The basic principle of storing documents is to make sure the whole team knows where these documents are. If the information is difficult to find there is no point in writing it down and putting it somewhere. It sometimes happens that the documentation is created in a large set of Google Docs that are impossible to find, and it is not always clear how to do this. To avoid this, you should clearly identify one place to look for the information. Even if it’s Google Docs, it’s better to use a single document or a folder that stores links to other resources.

1. Create one repository for everything

Choose one tool that combines the functions of creating, storing, organizing, and shared working with data and documents.

2. Think over the architecture

It is good when one or several colleagues take on the role of information architect. They will set up a single structure, logic, rules, and style and will correctly place documents in spaces. Without responsible people, the storage will be either empty or chaotic.

3. Think over the classification

It is worth considering the classification of content and the implementation of the search from the very beginning of the knowledge base design stage, in order not to get lost in many different files, defined spaces or sections, categories, and types of documents. For example, project documentation and company organizational rules should be kept in separate sections. You can create spaces for each of the departments of the company in which documents will be divided into categories and so on.

4. Prepare templates

Create special templates for frequently used documents; for example, checklists, how-to instructions, and technical specifications. You can even create some video instructions, but remember that the search function will not work on video. Therefore, make lengthy descriptions and put links where they are easy to find.

5. Set the work rules

Before you give access to create and edit the documents to all your colleagues, agree on the rules first. It’s best to automate these rules as much as possible; for example, use templates, tag content with auto tags, and so on.

Briefly about the tools

We use Confluence in our company. We like its convenient structure and easy search, which can be figured out quickly even by a beginner.

Gearheart Space

Among the functions that are very useful for work there is:

  • the ability to designate a person responsible for the page

  • the ability to mark the status of the page

  • use of expanding blocks

  • attachment of the documents inside which the search works (including pdf)

  • the ability to immediately leave comments on the pages when working together

  • plugins to expand functionality

  • integration with other applications

Alternatively, you can use Basecamp, Dropbox, Notion, and even Google Drive.