Finding the line: Balancing business continuity and documentation debt


There are software companies that have undervalued documentation or are still in the process of integrating it as an essential part of the software development life cycle. This has caused them to generate a documentation debt, which has led to:

  • Confusing and disorganized documents.
  • Scattered and inconsistent information sources.
  • A lack of documentation altogether.

Coming into a fast-moving agile work environment as an information developer, I found there is often little time and insufficient resources to resolve that debt. Chances are that you are required to work on current documentation requirements in favor of business continuity. The following questions then arise: “How can we tackle both current documentation needs and the existing documentation debt?” “And, is that even possible and necessary?” To the latter, I say yes and yes! Even more, I argue that companies are open to listen when you speak their language.

The former question I aim to answer in this talk. I cover how to come up with an actionable strategy to tackle the existing documentation debt while also dealing with incoming documentation needs (for new products, versions, features, bugs, …). Amongst others, it involves:

  • Defining the problem of documentation debt in your company.
  • Finding the business value to obtain resources, convince management, and invite stakeholder collaboration.
  • Forming the documentation debt into a product by designing a solution.
  • Understanding how your company works and handles business continuity.
  • Creating a strategy and roadmap for your product.
  • Organizing and managing your time so that the long-term does not interfere with the short-term.

In short, it requires wearing many hats, such as that of a product owner and project manager, and extensive collaboration with different stakeholders. What this talk really wants to bring across is that it is possible to come up with a balancing act that satisfies both the short-term and long-term documentation demands.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Portland
  • Year: 2020

About the speaker

Luca Janssens