Top Tips for Your Documentation Team Strategy

November 30, 2023
image depicts a documentation team developing strategy

The role of a documentation team is to ensure that accurate and accessible information is effectively communicated to employees, customers, and stakeholders. They collaborate with subject matter experts and create, organize, and manage technical documentation that ensures compliance with industry standards and regulations. Giving these teams the best tools to complete their work is critical.

In this post, we will look at how a component content management system (CCMS) can significantly enhance your documentation team strategy and efficiency.

The Importance of Documentation

A company’s documentation includes product manuals, training manuals, instructions for use, user guides, policies and procedures, compliance documentation, and much more. There are many reasons documentation is essential, and here are a few of them:

  • Customer Support – Documentation such as user guides, FAQs, and help articles help customers understand how to use products and services and troubleshoot issues.
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – All companies have policies and procedures that must be followed, and it’s the documentation team’s responsibility to ensure they are well-documented and kept up to date. SOPs streamline operations by creating a structured, repeatable framework for employees.
  • Training and Onboarding – Companies can facilitate onboarding new employees through training materials and SOPs, reducing the time and resources required to bring a new employee into the company. These materials are also helpful for ongoing training.
  • Legal Protection – Contracts, agreements, and similar documents protect a company’s legal interests and ensure they comply with regulatory requirements.

The Role of a Documentation Team

The documentation team is a group of individuals responsible for creating, maintaining, and managing a company’s technical documentation. It might sound like it’s an easy job – writing, editing, and publishing documentation – but there’s a lot to a documentation team strategy. The work these teams perform is critical to a company’s success. These teams must ensure the correct information, knowledge, and instructions are effectively communicated to employees, customers, and others. They do this in several ways:

  • Work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to collect and understand the information to include in a particular publication and then translate that information into easy-to-understand, easy-to-follow documentation.
  • Organize information to ensure it’s accessible and easy to navigate or find.
  • Create accurate and consistent documentation across publications, not only when it’s first created but through regular updates.
  • Ensure documentation adheres to industry standards, regulatory compliance, and legal obligations.

That last one you might not realize is a critical responsibility of documentation teams. Many industries and businesses are subject to regulatory requirements and compliance standards. Proper documentation is essential for demonstrating adherence to these regulations, reducing legal risks, and avoiding potential fines or penalties.

image shows documentation team collaborating

The Value a CCMS Brings to Documentation Teams

You can manage documentation using any number of tools – spreadsheets, Word or Google Docs, document management systems, content management systems, etc. However, the best solution when managing a lot of documentation is a component content management system (CCMS).

A CCMS supports creating and managing all types of technical documentation. It stores content using a structured content model that enables documentation teams to reuse content across publications instead of creating multiple versions of the content. It also applies consistent, on-brand layouts and styles to content as it’s published.
In terms of supporting the documentation team’s work processes, let’s look at a few ways a CCMS can help:

Reinforcing Collaboration

Technical documentation is often recreated by a team of writers and editors, each working on different aspects of the document. A CCMS supports this collaboration through several features:

Assign team members to work on a document and indicate what they can do (add content, edit existing content, provide feedback). For example, the Paligo CCMS lets you set a start and end date for the work and include instructions or context for the team member.

Create workflows that define the steps to create a document from planning through to publication. This includes the steps involved, the order in which they should be executed, and the teams assigned.
Track all changes made to the content, maintaining a version history (see the next section).

Working in a structured content model enables multiple team members to work on the same document simultaneously without overwriting work. As a result, documentation can be created faster, with ongoing review and feedback throughout the creation process.

Maintaining Version Control and Audits

Version control is another key aspect of a CCMS. When creating content in a CCMS, you can track the changes made to a document and the topics and components that make up that document. Tracking includes capturing the history of everything done to the content, allowing you to review or compare previous versions or roll back to previous versions if necessary.

But there’s more to version control in a CCMS than tracking changes. You can also do something called branching. Branching is creating parallel versions of a document. You create branches (or versions) of content for several reasons:

  • Create localized versions of a document.
  • Work on new features or capabilities for a future product release so the documentation is ready when the release happens.
  • Testing new changes, layouts, or styles.
  • Fixing bugs or issues.

Documentation branches can later be merged to pull all the changes into a single version. Again, all changes are tracked, and an audit shows who made what changes and when so that all changes are accounted for.

Assigning Roles and Responsibilities

Many people are involved in creating documentation: writers, editors, SMEs, reviewers, and translators. Each role has different responsibilities and may need different access to the content.

For example, a writer needs full access to the content because they are creating it. An editor also needs to be able to make changes directly in the content. However, a reviewer or a subject matter expert should only be able to review the content and make comments that the writer or editor can then apply.

A CCMS provides the ability to assign custom roles and permissions to different users. For example, you have two different levels of writers on your team, one group more experienced than the other. In the CCMS, you would create a separate role for each one and add the respective writers to each role. Then, you can assign each role permissions that indicate what they can do in a document. Junior writers can only work on certain topics, while experienced writers are responsible for more complex information.

You can also create roles and permissions that relate to creating and managing specific documentation. This is beneficial when you have large documentation teams responsible for many publications, and your team is divided into groups that work on specific product documentation.

If you have external people you want to review documentation, you can also give them the ability to review and leave comments without worrying that they will make changes.

The point is that by assigning roles and permissions to those roles, you can control who has access to what documentation and what they can do.

Giving Documentation Teams Tools for Success

Documentation is a fundamental component of organizational success. It facilitates efficiency, knowledge management, compliance, and effective communication, ultimately contributing to a company’s growth, stability, and ability to adapt to evolving challenges and opportunities. Establishing a documentation team strategy with the best tools to manage content efficiently and effectively is critical.

A component content management system provides many features that support the work of documentation teams, streamlining the entire technical documentation process while maintaining accuracy throughout every step. We’ve looked at three ways a CCMS supports a document team strategy (collaboration, versioning, and roles and permissions), but there are others, and we invite you to request a demo of the Paligo CCMS to learn more.

And if you would like to learn more about collaboration in a CCMS, read our article, “Documentation Culture in an Organization“.