The term “documentation” is a very general and far-reaching term, which is used in everyday life with a relative self-evidence and actually everyone has a clear idea of what it means.
What is documentation?
In general, any documentation provides information about an object, condition, or a being. The information is always usable information for further use cases. The documentation makes use of various media in order to present the information in written form or also in audio or video form. Thus documentation also serves the storage and retention of information. This also makes it possible to distribute this information and make it available to a larger group of people. By the storage of the information, also a certain archiving takes place. In addition, certain documentations, think only of the documentation of weather data, can be evaluated afterwards and new information can be gained from it, as for example the rain probability on the next day.
To sketch another simple example: An athlete can, for example, document his times from his training runs on a piece of paper or in a contemporary way in a suitable app. The raw information is the run times. Afterwards, tendencies to improve or worsen the athlete’s training condition can be determined.
A software programmer can document the software architecture so that other employees can handle the written source code faster and better.
A site manager will document the construction process in order to be able to justify later postponements or recourse claims.
Project Management Documentation
The above example roughly belongs to the documentation of project management. This means that within the framework of a project, all work steps, dependencies, persons and companies involved, definitions and decisions, including the associated deadlines, are meticulously documented. The aim of this type of documentation is to make the project process comprehensible. It can also be a matter of traceability in a court of law if disputes arise between contractual partners during the course of the project. In addition, the project documentation is also intended to represent the progress between the planned and achieved goals (target/actual comparison).
Documentation for software
There are different types of documentation for software:
- Documentation of the software architecture (see above example)
- Documentation of Software Development (see Project Management)
- Documentation as operating instructions (Help file)
The documentation of software is usually done with so-called authoring tools (authoring tools). One representative is DA-HelpCreator. The software documentation is so comprehensive that each of the three types is a separate chapter. These special types, especially point 1) and point 3), are to be assigned to “Technical documentation”.
Structuring and quality of documentation
A documentation should meet high quality standards and should be objective. The documentation should be complete without essential information gaps. The documentation uses a simple language and sentence structure, so that this is understandable for the circle of persons concerned. However, this does not mean that no foreign words and technical terms may be used. The content of the documentation must be structured in a logical sequence . Depending on the medium and topic of the documentation, it is advisable to increase understanding with drawings, pictures and sketches. The correctness of the content is another point. So there must not be any conscious misinformation. The information should be supported by attachments, references and the like (Integrity). The documentation must be editable. If new information is added, it must be possible to extend the documentation by revision or versioning. Also the authenticity of the documentation should be given. This can be done e.g. by a signature order or digital signatures.
Documentation as film and video
Who hasn’t seen him yet? …the well-known documentary film. This is also a form of documentation. For example, the viewer is provided with the latest information on the population of lions in the African savannah. But also the presentation of technical solutions, e.g. about computer problems with video tutorials is a kind of documentation.