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Software development documentation is an important but often neglected part of software projects. Regardless of the methodology chosen, there should still be some kind of documentation, and there are a few reasons for this.
Improve Team Development
Software projects are run as teams. More often than not, there are multiple developers working on a software solution. A big reason for software documentation is improving the way the team can work together.
Team members don’t often work on the same pieces of code. Developers still need to understand how the software is built, however. This is where the documentation comes in. It can help explain how the system fits together, how it’s designed, what the screens will look like, and all kinds of technical details.
If the software is documented, both during the design phase and while the development is being done, it helps the team work better together as they all can find out how the software works and what has been done.
Software Development Documentation Helps With Maintenance
Once the software is delivered, someone needs to support it. Just looking at the code alone often isn’t enough for the support team to use. Adding in the software development documentation is a great way to improve maintainability, reduce time taken to find and fix problems, and make it easier to enhance the software at a later date.
There are many kinds of documents that exist for maintenance purposes. Design documents (both the technical specifications and the interface design) are helpful to see how the code works and how the system looks. FAQ documents for users can be useful to see what the common questions and issues may be. Suport documents for common tasks, such as user maintenance or data cleansing, can reduce the time taken for support teams to do these tasks.
The aim of this is to reduce the time taken for maintenance tasks.
Explain Complexity In Basic Language
Software systems are complex things. They can take many months to analyse and develop, and cost a lot of money to put into production. It takes the knowledge and skills of IT professionals to be able to do this, but not everyone can work out the complexities of a system just by looking at the code.
Another purpose of software development documentation is to explain the complexities of software in basic, plain language. This can be done in many formats, such as diagrams, user stories, or use cases. The aim should be able to break down how the system works into a language that other users and developers can understand.
This is especially true for the documentation that the users see, such as manuals and help guides. The style of writing for these documents is different, and requires more common language. Technical documents can be full of IT jargon, but user manuals need to be able to be understood by the users.
Useful For Training Material
Another benefit of writing software documentation is the ability to use it for training material. When new IT staff come on to the team, whether they are developers or testers or any other role, the documentation can be used to educate them about how the software works and what it does. This can save time for the rest of the team. It doesn’t eliminate the need to do training completely, but it can save some of the time explaining the basics.
Other software development documentation can be written as user training material. This works in a similar way, and is used when there are new business users coming into the company that need to know how to operate the system. If the process and system is documented during the project, it can make this easier for everyone involved.
There are many benefits to having software development documentation, regardless of the chosen software development methodology. While waterfall projects usually have more official documentation, agile projects will still need some kind of documentation, though it may be in a different format.