The overlooked documentation gap that's costing your engineering team time and money

Personal Hints
Early Stage Startup

As an engineering leader, building a culture of comprehensive documentation within your teams is one of the most vital - and frequently overlooked - responsibilities.
Documentation is absolutely critical, yet often treated as an afterthought.

Here are the 7 reasons I highlighted over the course of my experience.

Reduce onboarding time for new engineers

Without robust documentation, onboarding new engineers is extremely inefficient.
Hard-won tribal knowledge gets lost as newcomers constantly interrupt colleagues with questions just to understand how existing systems work.

Productivity suffers.
Comprehensive documentation - spanning architecture, detailed API specifications, up-to-date design guidelines, thoroughly commented code, and more - dramatically accelerates ramp-up time for new hires.

They can self-serve the documentation to get up to speed much quicker with less hand-holding required.

Promote team alignment

Inconsistent knowledge creates misalignment.
With siloed information, engineers end up with differing understandings of how things work.

Great documentation provides a single source of truth that aligns your team.
All engineers can reference the same up-to-date docs on architecture choices, style guidelines, product requirements and more.

Bridge business context

Well-documented product requirements, user stories, and technical specifications are indispensable for translating business needs into engineering work.

Thorough docs keep engineers intimately aware of the customer problems they are solving and how work ties back to broader business goals.

Enable knowledge transfer

Excellent documentation enables invaluable knowledge transfer between team members.
Veteran engineers can pass along accumulated insights, context, and rationale to new hires.

With inevitable staff turnover, meticulous documentation retains all that precious institutional knowledge that would otherwise vanish.

Smooth remote collaboration

For distributed teams, comprehensive documentation is even more indispensable to smooth collaboration.

With remote members, detailed docs allow each engineer to remain highly productive without constantly interrupting colleagues. Documentation (sadly) substitutes for in-person interaction, yes, I'm a fan of in-person interaction.

Boost operational efficiency

Great documentation powers your team's efficiency.
Well-documented processes and best practices reduce operational overhead.
Engineers spend less time re-solving known issues or digging for lost knowledge, and more time creating value.

Preserve institutional knowledge

Detailed documentation preserves your hard-won institutional knowledge.
Years later, engineers can reference documentation to understand why past architectural decisions were made, and avoid repeating mistakes.

Documentation stands the test of time.
The key takeaway is recognizing the immense benefits robust documentation provides - from onboarding and alignment to knowledge sharing and reducing inefficiencies.

As a technical leader, evangelising complete documentation practices across your teams is mission-critical.

Make documentation a cornerstone of your engineering culture today and thank me later.

All content copyright © 2024 Davide Vago.
All content copyright © 2024 Davide Vago