Documentation Update Tips

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    How do you communicate updates for your technical documents? With fast growing companies, especially global companies, and frequent technical innovations, how do you let others know, for example, an application, product, manufacturing, business, etc. document has been updated? How do we document the revisions? To be sure that there is an effective process to indicate and notify users, here are some suggestions to lessen a chaotic impact for document changes:

    • Pre-warn users of impending changes and indicate a launch date for a new document. With today’s social media and mobile devices, this should be an easy accomplishment. Within an organization, if there is an intranet, or a social message system, announcements can be easily communicated quickly.
    • Make sure that revision numbers appear on the front of a document.
    • Issue an email with the attached document, with the subject line indicating an update to a document, followed by what was changed. If there have been relevant or more than a few updates, then a meeting and or training session must be held.
    • Create a new front cover for the document, so that users can easily distinguish the new updated document from the older one.
    • Create a cover page that indicates where changes were made, include page numbers to direct users to the appropriate page. This is especially useful for global companies where translation and retranslation is important. This not only makes it easier for a translator but for the reader as well.
    • Create thumb prints for the documents on revised pages and bold or italicize the updates to make amended items stand out.
    • Create new revised figure, images, tables, etc., to show new or modified items. Highlight pointers to make it easier for the reader to understand and view the updates. This is especially useful for updated products, applications, business flows, data, etc.
    • Email all users of impending changes when templates have been updated. Be sure to state why they have been modified. Also, indicate the date when the new templates will begin to be used. For example, there might be a new company logo that is to be used for better marketing and the company would want all associated events to begin on the same day.
    • Bold or italicize modified text where context sensitive helps or web online help issues are involved. If there are any follow-ups, the reader should be allowed/able to contact someone to question the modification. (For example, this could be a built-in feature within an application, or a customer service added feature to a product.)

    In the end, be sure to create a process to ensure that when documentation updates occur, all associated documents and all those involved will be notified, that established procedures are followed so that no one is left out of the loop, and that everything will run smoothly and without chaos.

    If you have any other ideas as to how to communicate updates, please leave a comment. Thank you.