Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ideas to improve documentation in AGILE

AGILE isn’t about documentation” I am sure many of us must have heard it. Believe me, it’s not the truth. There are many documents required to be created as a part of project management in AGILE. Product owners and scrum masters are the ones who primarily work on the documentation related tasks. But it is a collective responsibility of the team and you shouldn’t be surprised to see many documents being worked upon by the scrum team. When the main target (in AGILE) is to deliver the product in the shortest possible time, it becomes essential to know some ideas and tips that help practitioners spend less time on documentation without impacting its quality. Here are some cool tips –
  • Keep it short and simple (KISS): While in AGILE documentation, the idea is not to decrease the number of documents (or reduce the importance of documentation), the idea is to have crisp and short documents which will speak only about the key items that are essential for the document and not linger around providing unnecessary details.
  • Frequency of document updates: Number of updates happening in AGILE are much more than that in traditional processes. This is because updates keep happening almost in every iteration; however that in traditional mainly happens only in the beginning of the cycle. If you don’t see updates happening on the documents (or anyone document) then try to understand the reason behind it?
  • Pair review: Quality has to be maintained not just at the product level but also at the documentation level. It is hence important to review and improve documents. Pair review is a concept followed for the same purpose. These are informal reviews usually done within the team by other team member and suggestions are implemented in the document.
  • Automate exhaustively: Try to develop tools, (on excel / other office tools) that can automate the tasks for documents and save time. This saved time can be used in other project management / product development activities.
  • Non-functional requirements: Agile teams have a practice of treating the non-functional requirements as story points. Creating separate stories make those tasks appear as separate entities. However it is not the right practice to adopt. Making performance and other non-functional requirements core to the functionalities is the right strategy and that’s what managers should practice to save time in the cycle.
  • Avoid overlap: AGILE is about focusing most on the product that is being developed. Hence minimizing the number of documents, their contents and yet covering all essential aspects in the documents should be targeted. It hence becomes necessary to plan documentation in advance, have clear and crisp templates and avoiding overlap across multiple documents.
  • Simplify content display: A lot of times teams end up creating multiple documents because it becomes difficult for them to find the right content at the right time. Having easier ways to display documents and their contents is the key. Using technology and thus document management systems comes handy in such scenarios.
Thus these tips will help practitioners save a lot of time on the documentation and process related items and focus more on the final output i.e., product delivery and frequent updates (thus improvements). Business will see more features and functionalities in the product and will find more returns to their investments. End users would be happy to see better quality product with good performance and usability (points that are usually neglected due to lack of time in product development). Thus, these tips may not seem to show direct impact but will indirectly help business get more returns on their investments and help in improving the quality of the software.

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