Professional planning can help avoid failures in strategic moves due to lack of proper technical documentation.
Startups have small budgets and a lot to juggle: product and business development, product planning, the search for investors, and more. Even technical documentation or the lack thereof– can lead to failures in your strategic moves. Technical documentation can play a strategic role in getting investments, making key sales and even getting acquired.
At JBS, we are often asked to help clients set priorities and create an efficient, affordable work plan for their technical documentation, to give them the best chance of success in strategic moves. Strategic moves involve extensive financial and technological due diligence. In addition to the quality of your people, documentation has proven to be a key factor in providing your audience with the visibility it needs to take a key decision.
Even during the early stages of your business, your technical documents should:
- Project a world-class image (language, formatting, diagrams, content, etc.)
- Provide visibility into the strengths of your technology
- Prove that your technology is well thought-out and designed
- Be at least complete enough to enable you to quickly update them to meet demands of any potential partner/customer/investor.
What should you write when? How much should you spend? What are the risks?
So, when’s the best time to start?
Some choose to wait and create documentation only when it is needed, but then risk losing the deal by not being able to deliver in the midst of a strategic negotiation.
Alternatively, you can invest in key documentation as part of your start-up’s development process.
JBS ADVICE: IDENTIFY A CORE SUBSET OF DOCUMENTS AND COLLECT THE RELEVANT CONTENT
As a start-up you might be thinking: There are so many documents to have to prepare, from requirements to specs to product descriptions to architecture to technical and user manuals…. Where to start…. How to choose?
Teams who engage in good practice of continuous documentation of their targets and requirements in a smart manner, add value to their business and strengthen their strategic business position.
There’s no quick solution. After working with hundreds of start-ups, JBS has solid insight about alternatives and the value each offers the business based on its needs.
Here are some tips for choosing what documents prepare you best for investments, business deal-flow and strategic partnerships:
TIP 1: Create concept-oriented Operations Documents (leave out the GUI for now); this will keep you focused and anyway you will need them later.
Choose to invest in regular operations documents (e.g., user guides and administration manuals) because strategic partners will be interested in these, and current customers require them.
If your product is established and running, creating regular operations documentation for users along with installation and troubleshooting documents, make an impressive set for any CTO evaluating your product. These documents convey maturity and professionalism. They are valued and upgrade the standing of your team and product.
To make operations documents more valuable and easier to maintain, JBS suggests making them conceptual versus end-user procedure focused.
As a start-up, your product is volatile from the user interface perspective.
So, write your operational documents for the general versus the exception, providing details about procedural usage, without drilling down to the parameter level.
This is enough for your strategic needs and will also serve you when you’re ready to substantiate.
TIP 2: Think hard about how you document the product in your Product Description Documents.
Product description documents are likely to be of interest to strategic partners and are useful in sales, but tend to be open-ended, vague, and difficult to write. Challenges include:
- What level of detail to include?
- What content is relevant to and interests CTO’s, developers, designers?
- Algorithm description – this can highlight your technological strengths, but may also contain too much internal information that you don’t want to expose.
- How to focus mostly on functional description (and not implementation and integration needs).
- If and how much market context to include?
- If you should include competitive analysis or differentiators?
- More challenges: amorphous and changing product, feature set, etc.
Work with experienced JBS professionals to come up with the best solutions for these challenges.
TIP 3: Upgrade existing team notes into Technical System Documents.
Make your techie notes work for your future. If your team is agile, already collecting milestones, requirements, UMLs and/or system diagrams and flows, formulate them into a professional documentation set with Market Requirements Documents, Software Requirements Specification and Architecture Description.
This can be impressive to any large company evaluating your work. Reflecting your current knowledge and product, enables estimation from the outside.
You’ll also then have a product baseline for creating customized projects and implementing change.
JBS’s professional technical writing team can mold these raw materials into quality documents.
TIP 4: Introduce a reusable, Modular Approach for documents.
Want to be really strategic? Yearn for a full technical documentation set and a practical way to get there? A modular approach might be your best bet.
By looking at user, product and technical needs, you can create small modular pieces of content that fit into the overall document structure. Assigning content owners to collect their knowledge. When you analyze your product’s content, you’ll find that there is lots of overlap. For example the product description contains components from the overview in the user guide and marketing and operational information are found in both these documents.
While planning modularity takes experience, this system has the most benefits.
Your team gets to reuse and update capabilities that save time and money as you move forward to your goals.
JBS advises: plan document building blocks to success!
JBS’s experienced team can help you assess what’s best for your company. Together, we weigh the alternative documentation options, configurations, content and processes to make your documentation work best.
Start today and be prepared for the future!
HAVE YOU WATCHED THE VIDEO?
Technical Documents = Strategic Assets!