The Challenges With Content Documentation and How To Address Them
Content documentation and maintenance is a critical but often overlooked part of any content strategy. It requires an ongoing commitment to keep content up to date, accurate, and organized. Unfortunately, even on a small scale, it can be difficult to get started and stay on track due to various team needs, hundreds of fields, dozens of workflows, scattered information, and — most notably — constant changes in process. And to top it all off, for many, content strategy is only a fraction of your job.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why content documentation and maintenance is hard yet important and how you can overcome the challenges. In part two of this series, we’ll walk you through 8 steps to create an effective internal content strategy and provide you with all of the templates and examples you need to get started today.
What is Internal Documentation and Why It’s Important
Internal documentation is the written record an organization uses to outline and inform processes and best practices to its employees to help them retain knowledge and reduce internal error. If you’ve created or interacted with a sales playbook, project brief, or sprint planning document, you’ve benefited from internal documentation.
So why should you care?
- Documentation creates a single source of truth and allows for better communication between stakeholders and employees, ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to company policies and process.
- Documentation establishes a clear, consistent set of standards to follow, minimizing user confusion and internal error.
- Documentation also provides a way for managers to keep track of and communicate changes to processes. This helps identify any potential issues quickly and easily.
- Last but not least, proper documentation can help improve the overall quality of your content strategy. It’s important to remember that documentation isn’t just a way to record changes and maintain content, but a way to ensure that the content is correct and consistent from version to version. By having a clear set of standards and documentation in place, creating, communicating, and maintaining processes is much easier and more efficient.
While the content itself is important, the way you organize and share it can have an ever greater impact. The process of organizing internal documentation ( “Information architecture”) isn’t much different from how the architects on your engineering teams design how your data needs to be organized or how your product needs to be designed and built. It requires evaluating your team and content needs, content designing, and more steps that we outline in part two of this blog series.
That said, there’s a lot that goes into making your documentation and technology work for your business. There are so many different workflows and processes to teach and reinforce, each designed with your particular business in mind. Often, these workflows are far from simple, taking a toll on productivity and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Internal Complexity is Breaking your Business
With an ever-increasing number of moving parts, it can be hard to keep track of everything and ensure that all content is up-to-date, accurate, and organized. This complexity can lead to confusion, disorganization, and inconsistencies, making it difficult to trust your data, make informed decisions, and take advantage of potential opportunities. Furthermore, without a documented content process, it can be hard to keep track of changes and updates, leading to messy data and costly mistakes.
Information Chaos Means Lost Time
Scattered Google Docs, long training sessions, and outdated documents mean finding the information employees need to do their jobs pulls them out of their flow of work, causing frequent context switching and disrupted productivity. In fact, employees waste 3-11 hours a week on average searching for knowledge and communications. All of this leaves your employees drowning in complexity, leading to poor adoption, longer sales cycles, more customer churn, costly talent attrition, and a poor employee experience.
Bad Data Means Bad Decisions
Lack of proper documentation leads to employees that don’t follow processes and make frequent mistakes, leaving behind lots of messy data. Research shows that 10% of organizations lost revenue due to bad data, causing inaccurate forecasting and an inability to diagnose problems. Poor data quality makes it really hard to know the true health of your business, negatively impacting bigger business decisions around company growth, talent management, customer experience, ROI, etc.
Bad data also kills employee efficiency and revenue-generating productivity. They grow increasingly frustrated and fail to understand how the tools can help them in their roles, further hindering adoption.
For example, Salesforce owners and admins waste valuable time doing manual data cleanup, answering too many ad hoc questions, and providing too much end user support. This takes them away from much more important, more impactful work. As a result, they become frustrated and unhappy in their jobs, decreasing employee retention – leaving you with a role to backfill and the cost of hiring and training their replacement.
Poor Adoption Means Poor ROI
Simply having technology isn’t enough. When you struggle to effectively drive adoption, your tools often hurt your teams more than they help them. Poor product training, process enablement, and ineffective change management causes many companies to struggle with unlocking the full potential of their investments. In fact, 45% see low adoption of technology meaning ROI is low or unclear. The more adoption suffers, the more your technology investment is called into question. This prompts discussions about refactoring, implementing a fresh instance, or getting rid of the tool entirely – each an increasingly costly decision.
Tips for Creating Documentation That Drives Your Business Forward
Let’s think about CRM documentation. Let’s say you’ve just rolled out Salesforce and your company processes are still in the works. If your process is constantly changing, you’re likely asking yourself, “How are we going to make sure that our documentation is effective and staying up to date in order to avoid expensive mistakes?”
Keep Content Agile
Per Atlassian, agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. You don’t have to wait until all of your documentation is ready to start rolling it out. Instead, take a crawl, walk, run approach to documentation.
Start small by outlining the basic things that someone needs to understand when they’re first logging into a new tool. In your next phase, focus on outlining workflows that everyone needs to know, followed by more nuanced workflows by rule and so on. Eventually, once you’ve documented your key workflows and fields, you can think about taking documentation to the next level.
Chunk Content For Easy Consumption
For most organizations, a lack of content is not the issue; it’s that no one is reading or retaining it. According to Miller’s Cognitive Load theory, most adult learners can store between 5 and 9 items of information at once in their short-term memory. When we learn new information or acquire new memories, these are first stored in our short-term memory before making their way to the long-term memory. Information that isn’t reinforced is discarded to make room for new concepts and ideas. That’s where microlearning or content chunking comes into play. Content chunking is when you break down content into bite-sized ‘chunks’ for easy access and iteration. This is why Spekit Speks are so so effective. Speks allow you to:
- Deliver value quickly
- Collect feedback and make changes quickly
- Easily communicate change for maximum viewership
- Share specific content in context
Make Content Easy to Find
As mentioned, employees are wasting valuable time each week searching for content. Naming conventions, using well-organized folders, and proper communication are all steps you can take to ensure employees can find the content they need, when they need it. Tools like Spekit make content easier to find, enabling you to put crucial process information at your employees’ fingertips.
Leverage Others For Content Creation
You should never feel like you’re on your own creating content. Leverage others within your organization to ensure content is accurate and succinct. Here are just a few people you can tap in to contribute to content documentation:
- Subject matter experts
- Front line managers
- Help desk and support
Ensure Content is Delivered Contextually
We’re used to consuming information in a very linear format. Spekit adds a third powerful dynamic: context. Traditional training is occasional and delivered outside employee workflows, typically made for a general audience, and often takes a lengthy and formal approach. Unlike traditional approaches, contextual, or just-in-time, learning is consistent, bite-sized, personalized, frequently reinforced, and presented in the flow of work when and where it’s needed. This closes the gap between when an employee learns something and when they can apply that new knowledge, driving efficiency and strengthening retention.
For example, Spekit helps you deliver crucial documentation to employees that’s relevant to their current state, such as their current URL or the type of content they’re looking for.
To make content contextual, here are a few things to consider:
- Location: Where is the employee in the UI when they start the process or need that help?
- Format: What’s the best format for this kind of training? A video, GIF, text, or an image?
- Links: What other relevant information could save them time when they’re in that workflow? How can we make it easily accessible?