Streamlining, Producing, and Managing Documentation

Article excerpt

The more we evolve as a business world, the more we document-document-document. We have documentation for basic policies and procedures such as employee handbooks, administrative services manuals, benefits guidebooks, safety program procedures, and budget development policies. The "new-think" has spawned the quality standards, ISO compliance requirements, harassment guidebooks, and strategic goal setting. Then there's technology with its abundance of systems manuals, and don't forget internet, intranet, and e-mail rules, policies, and etiquette. And on behalf of RIM, we have our important retention and vital records policies and procedures, just to name a few.

If you take a second to contemplate all the documentation we maintain and generate, it is staggering. If you take another second, it is pretty obvious that there has to be a better way. Adrienne Escoe's book, Nimble Documentation: The Practical Guide for World-Class Organizations, provides it.

Author Escoe states her book "is a practical guide for streamlining, producing, and managing documents." She has designed it for organizations that either want to establish a documentation system or streamline an existing one. It is no surprise that all of our organizations fall into her target group.

Adrienne Escoe is president of Escoe/Bliss Communication, specializing in documentation consulting. Her work in systems and procedures, administration, and human resources provides her a solid background for her documentation specialty. She was a faculty member and instructor at the University of Maryland and California State University at Long Beach, and recently taught at UCLA Extension. In addition to being an ARMA International member, she is also a member of the American Society for Quality.

Nimble Documentation follows a practical chronology and covers four major topic groups which are Need, Implementation, Application, and Information Tools. Following is an overview of each with highlights.

Part I - Need

This part is made up of two chapters that are key to understanding and using the book. Together they introduce the framework for achieving "Nimble Documentation," how to use the book, and concepts for identifying and assessing your needs.

A highlight of this part is the author's litmus test for determining which documents should be maintained and which should be eliminated. This test uses four simple questions to make the keep/delete decision. Yes, she makes it is as simple as it sounds - I tried it and feel the outcome would have been the same using more time-consuming methods. Examples are used to examine this approach further, as well as a case study that is a documentation streamlining success stow.

Part II - Implementation

Author Escoe introduces "Implementation" by stating that a system must be defined "to facilitate access to and comprehension of the needed information." In this part she guides the reader through a process of defining the hierarchy or relationship of documentation components (i.e., manuals, forms, data, etc.), structuring a documentation system, formatting individual documents, applying writing styles to meet goals. This part also explores electronic alternatives and continuous measured improvements. …