Agile Technical Writing Basics Ksenya Mizinova, Technical Writer If you want to know what exactly Agile methodology stands for, you should check out several Wikipedia pages and specialized blogs, but the essentials can be described in a few words. Agile relies on communication between individuals during the overall process of development; working software is considered the best measure of team activities, and changes in customer's requirements are always welcome. Software is produced in iterative way: Unfortunately, nobody wrote instructions for Agile technical writers, so peculiarities of profession need to be studied out.
Technical Writing and Agile Scrum: This is a departure from the old way of thinking about the separation of teams and responsibilities. No longer can technical writers wait in a different department for robust requirements documents or massive updates about a quarterly release because none of those things exist in a mature Agile Scrum development shop.
And, as most IT departments and CTOs are striving to move their teams to a mature Agile Scrum process, technical writers must adapt as efficiently and effectively as the development personnel. This new Agile Scrum process demands that knowledge and information dealing with software or product releases are only sparingly documented upfront, making the job of information gathering for the technical writer much more challenging and dependent on people over requirements.
Because of this, the modern technical writer needs to be part of the Agile Scrum team and closely aligned with the meetings and deliverables contained within each sprint. Writers should attend and participate in each daily standup for which they may have deliverable responsibilities.
Someone must be there to document these decisions; these are the new requirements in the Agile world. The sprint review meeting generally takes place at the end of every sprint.
They give all stakeholders customer service, product, development the opportunity to see what has been completed during the sprint and what will most likely be delivered to the customer either immediately or in the near future.
This meeting provides an opportunity for the technical writer to not only document what has changed through the demos, but to also document stakeholder feedback for use by the development team.
Attending the Agile Scrum meetings and becoming part of the development team is the logical way for technical writers to fit into this fast-paced and adaptive new way of creating product. Documentation in an Agile Development Cycle The days of verbose user manuals written in Microsoft Word or other static word processing software are over.
Now, technical writers must learn to be as adaptive and agile as their development counterparts by writing in XML-based tools and staying ready for the next change. As described above, the only effective way to stay abreast of these changes is to be part of the Agile Scrum team; however, it is also important to keep the documentation as changeable as the requirements.
Software such as Madcap Flare and Adobe FrameMaker are a couple of examples of these types of tools that are used to create reusable content.
The benefit of creating reusable content is that if a requirement changes which happens all the time with the Agile Scrum process the technical writer can make the change in one place instead of having to search countless documents and changing each document individually.
This type of documentation also makes content review more manageable within the time confines of a one or two-week sprint cycle.
Another trend in documentation that takes the Agile Scrum process into consideration is the advent of context-sensitive help. This type of help provides small chunks of information that is related to the immediate needs of the user.
This type of help is usually interwoven within the user-interface code of the application and available on-demand or within a help tour. Keeping documentation light and reusable is only part of the answer to keeping technical writers engaged in the new Agile Scrum approach. Communication within the development team is also paramount.
The answer to the question of what is required for technical writers to fit in to the Agile Scrum process is the same as it is for all other members of the development team; they must be able to adapt. Rob has many years of experience as a developer, quality assurance analyst, and technical writer with a variety of companies in the Minneapolis, MN area.
You can connect with Rob through Writing Assistance, Inc.The company is in the process of transitioning to agile development. Jane Wilson leads the technical writing team for GE Digital’s Applications Engineering group. GE Digital develops in an Agile environment, and, as the team has grown, she has developed processes for fitting writers and the writing process into Agile methodologies.
Part I: Technical Writing in Space (Part II | Part III) The Problem When you first begin Technical Writing in an Agile development environment, . Now, technical writers must learn to be as adaptive and agile as their development counterparts by writing in XML-based tools and staying ready for the next change.
The only effective way to stay abreast of these changes is to be part of the agile team; however, it is also important to keep the documentation as changeable as the requirements. Writing user documentation in an Agile environment can be difficult You often have very short timescales and a busy development team.
There’s often little formal project documentation. Do Agile projects need user documentation? In an ideal world, a product will be intuitive, but often this isn’t possible. [Agile Guide] – Agile for Technical Writers.
So how in the heck do you update and maintain technical documentation in an Agile environment when everything is subject to change? Ensure not to document while development is .
Editor’s Note: In the first of a series of articles on Agile and tech comm, Alyssa Fox outlines the common challenges writers face on traditional development and Agile teams, and shows us why Agile can be the better approach for technical communicators.