Requirements-driven product documentation development

Requirements-driven product documentation development


Requirement-driven product documentation development is a documentation development process in which ongoing changes in a product's requirements cause ongoing changes in the product documentation throughout the product life cycle.

Product documentation falls into the following basic categories:

* Requirements documentation
* Design documentation
* Manufacturing/assembly/implementation documentation
* User documentation (Users Guides, Manuals)
* Service documentation (Service Manuals)
* Training materials (Courseware)
* Promotional materials (White Papers, Datasheets)
* Regulatory compliance documentation
* Support documentation

Product evolution causes ongoing changes in product documentation; as a result, it is rare that product documentation is only written once and then doesn't require any further maintenance. The longer the product lifecycle and the more rapidly the product requirements change, the more revisions the product documentation has to undergo.

Product evolution in its turn is driven by the ever changing business requirements. Business requirements continually change due to the changes in the product positioning, competitive forces, a technological break-through (s) and user feedback.

Ripple Effect

Most changes to the requirements documentation have a ripple effect over the rest of the documentation categories as product evolution results into new use cases supported by the product, as well as new product components and functions that are introduced on an ongoing basis.

Business requirement changes cause design changes and the design changes cause manufacturing/assembly/developement/implementation changes. Altogether these changes cause the User, Service, Training, Support and Regulatory Compliance documentation modifications.

Promotional materials often have to reflect requirement changes before such changes are completely reflected in the product itself so that promotional campaigns can be launched before the product's latest model or version has been officially released.

Documentation Consistency

Product stakeholders, such as technical writers, marketing specialists and instructional designers have to process the original requirement changes and reflect these changes in the documentation category they are responsible for. Because the "ripples" of the original requirement changes are "absorbed" by different product stakeholders at different points in time, different product documentation categories may reflect the latest version of the product requirements to different extents, depending on what documentation categories are most mission critical for a given product.

Products with longer lifecycles often come to a point where the vast body of the already existing product documentation becomes nearly impossible to maintain because of the missing link between product features and the reason why these features were introduced in the first place, what purpose they serve and what impact any changes in such features might potentially have on the product's usability.

A number of cyclically applied waterfall analysis processes help product stakeholder teams keep different facets of the evolving product documentation in sync with the evolving product and with each other:

* Needs Analysis
* Use Case Analysis
* Gap Analysis
* Functional Analysis
* Task Analysis
* Impact Analysis

Requirement-driven Documentation Lifecycle Management Solutions

There are several software solutions that allow product stakeholders to manage the product documentation lifecycle with traceability from any requirement changes all the way down to individual documentation assets (SiberLogic's SiberSafe, Telelogic's DOORS/DocExpress). The solutions of this class are able to identify what requirement changes resulted into what design-related, documentation-related or other gaps and indicate in what documentation assets such gaps haven't yet been addressed through supporting and automating the key analytical processes, such as needs analysis, gap analysis, task analysis, impact analysis etc.

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