The tool is not important

The tool is not important. The tool is not important. The tool is not important.

I have been repeating this mantra in my head for the past week or so, over and over, like a broken record. I’m in the middle of pulling together the requirements and scope for a new technical community website for our users, which will become the key focus of our technical information. The more traditional product documentation set will be maintained as we move forward, so there is some thought to be given towards how we manage the information as well as how it is published, or rather where.

I must stop considering the how. The tool is not important.

At present I have a list of requirements, all of which I’m thinking through from the point of view of how the process will work as far as creating and maintaining the information. Who will be access the source, who will be viewing the published information, who can edit what, how will the information be used by the audience? All the while there is a part of my brain dragging me towards HOW this will work. What tool will be able to handle our requirements?

The tool is not important.

I enjoy a challenge, and this is most certainly a new venture for me, but the basic foundations of this idea are rooted in things I know well, single sourcing content, developing online communities (I run a website for Scottish Bloggers (currently dead after our hosting service disappeared)). As such I’m confident I can get this off the ground, but even so I’m being careful to properly gather requirements, and fully understand the impact of changing our publishing model. Note I said “model”.

The tool is not important.

So with a list of requirements, and a full understanding of the processes that will be involved both to maintain the main documentation set and the development of other supporting information (culled from internal Wikis, mailing lists and anywhere else we stumble across something useful) one change is the way in which we plan, design and write product documentation.

As I’ve said, this is all about the processes that support the way we work. I’m being quite deliberate in how I pull together the requirements, focussing discussions on the audience, the expectations, the information and processes, with no mention of the technology which will need to support the new website.

The tool is not important.

Last year’s X-Pubs conference drilled this message home, and it’s good to be able to draw on the information and knowledge gained there. Get your requirements sorted out and agreed, understand the impact of changing the way people access information, and the impact of changing how people work, figure out how best to handle the reaction to change and agree the expectations and limitations of your system. Decide which models you will follow, how the processes will hang together and outline the various roles that will be required, and make sure they understand what is required of them.

Then and only then should you consider what tools you require and make sure they are serving you.

Written By

Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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Kat says:

Think you might be heading towards ‘docs’ for the 21st century here………… at last!

[…] Some background first; I don’t revisit my old posts nearly as often as I should and, as there are certain topics that I tackle with the vague idea of covering in greater detail at some point later on, it’s handy when someone else gives me a nudge about an old post (namely, The tool is not important). […]

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