Software Project Documentation

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

Creating Software documentation is a tedious task but everyone benefits from having appropriate documentation. The main job role of "Technical writers" is to create software documentation. They write easy-to-understand quick reference guides, end user training manuals, training exercises, hand-outs, user interface text, and online help. Technical Writers work with IT department to obtain an in-depth understanding of products and the documentation requirements. Technical writers are responsible for the timely creation of manuals, organization, preparation and updating of company materials (manuals, training materials, forms, templates etc.). Technical writers acquire subject knowledge through various methods which includes, interviewing software programmers, technical specialists, communicating with other development team members like project managers and other analysts and the testing and networking team and extensive researching on the concerned subject. Technical writers create knowledge base and video guides and maintain the information architecture. They create tutorials to help end-users use a variety of applications.

Software projects run smoother and future enhancements are easier when there is written documentation to go along with the code. Providing constructive feedback in a timely manner to the team members on changes and improvements in the code and updating the same in the documents takes a lot of skills. Programmers can code but technical writers are good communicators. Technical writers write the documents. Technical writers review and edit technical reports and documents according to company standards.

Documents, in one form or another, are found on various software projects. These projects provides links to templates for some of the most commonly used documents.

Every company has a different type of template, I am just giving a sample template, to give a brief overview of the certain contents of particular documents. It does not necessarily mean that it has to be included in your manual too. These templates are created on need base as per the company's standards.

There are different types of document mentioned here,and a brief description describing the content and purpose of the document is also provided.

Templates that shows major section headings and brief explanations of details covered in each section are provided.

Examples that illustrate the documents which help for clearer understanding of the subject or project. The information provided here are not very detailed given here are they are mere examples which are meant to narrowly focus on the particular manual and get a little understanding about the template. Some appropriate information is provided here but they are not complete manuals.

A sample quality assurance (QA) checklist that lists certain criteria, which is required by every company usually in the form of a brief questionnaire, for assessing a document is also provided. This checklist serve as a standard for evaluating the project.

Project Documentation Template

Benefits of a Good Project Plan:

· Project documentation sets the platform for thorough communication and understanding.

· Project documentation encourages to gain project knowledge

· A good project plan enables to set the projects objectives.

· It helps in project planning

· Gives the project manager and the project team a better understanding of the project status

· Facilitates good communication between team members.

· Puts authority in place; there won’t be any confusion as the person-in-charge of the project.

· Prepares you to deal with any kind of risk like budget or resource etc.

· Helps with better resource planning and assignment

· When the project plan is documented it becomes project execution easier.

· Keeps the focus of the project team intact.

· Helps to incorporate changes and update changes easily.

The simple most template for any project documentation is, that you need to cover the following points compulsorily:

· Who is the customer? You need to have a proper understanding of the customer.

· The current need for this documentation

· The name of the product

· That benefit/reason the customer will get after they buy the product.

· Competitors or other alternatives in the market

· The company’s product statement

Understanding project requirements and tracking the deliverable to ensure that the requirements are met on time is equally important for a project. The product requirements and its objectives should be accomplished to ascertain project success. A project team needs to refer to the project plan during the duration of the project, so the project documents need to be updated on a regular basis. It has to be clear and to prepared in such a manner that the project requirements are understood clearly. The document sets the direction for the project by specifying needs to be accomplished. It defines the scope of the project.

The main elements of this project include:

Project Documentation Description:

Ø Project documentation are usually prepared for high-end complex projects.

Ø Project Documentation provides information on the company’s project or it serves as a projects step-by-step verification; it consists of all the process of classification and text annotation.

Ø Project Documentation explains the projects expectations and objectives.

Ø Project documentation discusses the project tasks

Ø Project documentation helps address any project issues

Ø Work breakdown structure helps to break down complex work into the manageable activities. Proper coordination between team members helps in preparing the project plan.

Ø Project Documentation explains the project status & it’s outcomes

Ø Project Documentation helps in tracking the project progress, project performance and to make important decisions.

Ø Project Scheduling is another important factor that helps you keep track of the project activities.

Ø Start by explaining the Project. Some of the projects are so complicated that they may require a lot of details and lot of interview with the software team and a good understanding of the customers needs to complete the project.

Ø Explain the Project work plan. The Project work plan is another important consideration for a technical writer while preparing the project documentation. It lays down the complete project work structure to activity level.

Ø Explain if you are working on multiple projects or a single project. The job of a technical writer is to deliver the project manual d with the desired expectations and results. To ensure that you are on track, you need to keep proper check, of the project deliverable against the project management plan at all times. Hence, the project management plan is a significant part of the documentation throughout the project life cycle. Project plan needs to be regularly updated when the project is live.

Ø Identify and Explain the Project Goals:

The goals of the project should properly identified. Goals are the the expected outcome of a project. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely

Ø Start with an idea to solve the problem at hand

Ø Take advantage of opportunities.

Ø Project scope Identify the scope of the project. Include all details

Ø High-level features or requirements – Explain the main features and more important features of this projects. Prioritize the features of the project. Sometimes the project team classifies the features into two classes: essential and desirable. The essential features are implemented first and then if they have time they put in the rest of the features. A lot of customer interaction also takes place during the project execution. The project goes through various changes during the project cycle. So, it is only obvious that the project requirements too change frequently. Requirements are changed after raising formal requests to make the required changes and the project manager makes the approvals formally.

Ø Delivering project within budget is highly desirable for a project. In most cases the project cost overshoots during middle of a project. The main reason being under estimation of cost calculations at the beginning of the project activity and not monitoring the project during the duration of the project. It will certainly create a hindrance or need severe cost cutting of the project. The cost-estimate therefor is a very important part of documentation to estimate project cost and to stay within the budget. All if assumptions made, during the project are entered in the project log by the project manager this is done to ensure that the project is being monitored and controlled properly on a regular basis the project stays within budget.

Ø Resource management is another important factor in a project. Resource management plan helps to identify the resources required in a project. Most of the project managers struggle with estimating the resources required in a project. Technical writers need to document the resources being used in the project with proper efficiency. Without proper resource management, the project cannot be delivered on time and project failures can be expected. Resource management helps to acquire the necessary resources and defines the roles/ responsibilities within budget. It also lays down the foundation for ensuring the adequacy of the resources being utilized.

Ø Preparing a risk management plan and maintaining risk log or error management file and documenting the errors that take place during the execution of the program is a safe way of ensuring that the mistakes are not repeated. It helps the project manager to deal with potential upcoming risks during projects. Risk is always a factor is any project. Any project goes with low to high level of uncertainty and managing these risks is always a big challenge to project manager and the project team. By maintaining risk management document, a project manager ensures a strategy to deal with the risks during the project and in the future and thus increases the chance of providing project success.

These are just a few topics that are included in the project management document. It is a wide topic and the software documents involved in a project are quiet a few.

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