Are you maintaining your documentation correctly?

Jan 21 01:08 2005 Mike Hayden Print This Article

... you ... your ... ... I've said in many eZines, yo

Are you maintaining your documentation correctly?

As I've said in many eZines,Guest Posting you must write stuff down.

The other day, an interviewer asked,

"How many pages you written?"

"Somewhere around 30,000 pages delivered, not including
thousands of draft pages."

"You must love writing!"

"Not really."

"Then what...?"

"I don't love writing per se. I love the applications.
I love the results. In writing, you can create, let's
say, the first level of reality. By writing, you can
begin to give intangible ideas form in the physical

"Can you imagine how many people discovered the secret
of fire and didn't write it down? The news had to
spread by 'tribal knowledge!'

"How many times did the secret vanish because some
fire-novice asphyxiated himself and family? How many
times do think some do-gooder banned fire due to its

"It probably took eons to discover that secret -
over and over!

"Eventually, I suppose, someone wrote the secret on a
cave wall or cocktail napkin..."


"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining...
researching... talking to people about what you're
doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing."
-- E.L. Doctorow


Anyway, when you write stuff down, you'll eventually need
to update it. (I'll talk here about large, important
documents - Operations Manuals, Technical Manuals,
User Manuals, or maybe the secret of fire and how to
control it.)

"Mike, what have you learned over the years about
maintaining documentation?"

Well, large documentation projects have their own "life
cycle." This cycle extends from conception to obsolescence.

When you develop large-scale documents, you'll typically
iterate through the following:

1. Requirements.
Includes definition, statement of goals, preliminary
analysis, functional specifications, and design

2. Design.
Includes outline definition, format definition, etc.

3. Implementation.
Requires writing, editing, integration of various
components, and proofing.

4. Testing.
Includes verification and evaluation against the


But wait! There's another phase I call Documentation
Maintenance! It begins after you deliver your documentation
to your user.

You can divide Documentation Maintenance into the following
___ Determine need for change
___ Submit Change Request
___ Review Proposed Changes
___ Analyze requirements
___ Approve/Reject Change Request
___ Schedule task(s)
___ Review and Analyze Design
___ Write and Edit
___ Test
___ Verify against Standards
___ User Acceptance


In these steps, I outline the maintenance process, which
begins when someone needs a change and ends when your
user accepts your changes.

As you can imagine, changing documentation is frequently
complex and may involve many people.

For example, imagine the task of updating
documentation for applications in complex electronics,
aerospace, law, medical, insurance, etc. Or, how about
updating flight-prep manual for a commercial airliner?

The maintenance process above appears linear. But again,
you'll undergo many steps and iterative loops.

For example,

You may need to clarify the Change Request.
You may require more analysis of the Design Reviews.
You may need to rewrite your Standards Audit.
Your users may fail to accept the results, etc.


Someone, the "Maintainer(s)" must do the work.

This Maintainer must make changes within the context of the
existing documentation. Maintenance people often find this
the most challenging problem.

The older the documentation, the more challenging and
time-consuming the maintenance effort. But normally,
maintenance takes you less time than development.

Your development effort may span several months. You may
schedule PERFECTIVE maintenance in cycles of one to six
months. But, you may require CORRECTIVE maintenance
within hours.


Functionally, you can divide documentation maintenance
activities into three categories:


Let me explain...



"Perfective maintenance" is when you make changes,
insertions, deletions, modifications, extensions, and
enhancements to improve understandability or

You generally do Perfective maintenance because you
have new or changing requirements, or you may need to
fine-tune the documentation.

Fine-tuning is an excellent way to introduce a new
writer to your documentation. This will reduce your
chance of serious errors later.

Both failures and successes of your documentation
require Perfective maintenance. If your documentation
works well, users want more features; if your
documentation works poorly, you must fix it.

When you perform Perfective maintenance on poorly
written documentation, you can dramatically reduce
resource requirements by making your documentation
more maintainable.



"Adaptive Maintenance" is when you adapt the
documentation to changes in the user environment.
Environmental changes are normally beyond control of
the writer and consist mainly of changes to:

Rules, laws, and regulations that affect the
documentation. Typically you must quickly make
these changes to meet dates established by the
rules and regulations.

Equipment configurations, such as, new computers,
new terminals, local printers, etc. Usually, you
want to take advantage of improved features
and/or pricing. You normally perform this
maintenance on a scheduled basis.

Data formats, file structures, etc. You may
require extensive maintenance if these items
were not properly designed and implemented. If
you can isolate changes to specific modules, the
maintenance may have less impact. If not, the
effort can be both lengthy and costly.

System software, operating systems, compilers,
utilities, etc. In these cases, you usually
perform maintenance on a schedule.



"Corrective Maintenance" is when you must fix errors
- sometimes immediately.

Generally, you'll find three types of errors:

Design errors.

These errors include incomplete or faulty design
because of incorrect, incomplete, or unclear
descriptions, or when the writer does not fully
understand the user's needs.

Logic errors.

Often, logic errors occur when user instructions
and/or unusual data combinations are not tested
during development or maintenance. These errors,
usually attributable to the designer or previous
maintainer, include invalid assumptions, tests,
instructions, or conclusions, or faulty logic
flow, and incorrect implementation.

Writing Errors.

The writer causes these errors. These errors
include incorrect implementation or design logic,
or incorrect use of special terms. While these
errors may be the result of negligence or
carelessness, they are usually the easiest to fix.

NOTE: Many managers consider maintenance to include changing
specifications or adding new capabilities.

Fascinating stuff, eh?

5. Call to Action

As I've said before, I'm a fanatic about documenting
business processes.

Find out for yourself! You have nothing to lose.

Together, let's document what you want, how you want
it, and when you want it. We will discuss various
creative approaches before the project begins.

Mike Hayden
Your partner in streamlining business.

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from

About Article Author

Mike Hayden
Mike Hayden

Mike Hayden is Founder/CEO of Senior Management Services and the Documentation Express in Silicon Valley, California. Mr Hayden is the author of "7 Easy Steps to your Raise and Promotion in 30-60 Days! The book that smart bosses want their employees to read."
ISBN 0-9723725-1-2. More articles at

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