Is your IT Software project likely to be successful if you have just four project documents or hundreds of them? Well, when it comes to IT software projects, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
A well-developed software might require either or all of the in-between. The important aspect is that your project documentation needs to remain relevant and clear over the course of your development. This approach ensures all stakeholders move in the same direction and increases the chances for success.
But what are the key documents in IT software projects? This article covers 6 vital documents as well as how to write them.
6 key Documents in IT Software Projects
The primary aim of a proper document in an IT software project is to provide a roadmap that developers can follow to achieve the set objectives. Software documentation can be categorized into; product, user, and process documentation.
1. Product Requirement Document
Often abbreviated as PRD, this document refers to an outline about the software functionally. Ideally, this document states what the system will do. Some of the common aspects you should cover in the PRD include user stories, and business rules, among others.
The best PRD is clear. Additionally, it should provide enough information about the purpose, maintenance, and features of the software to be developed.
Your PRD should include the following:
* The responsibilities of all project participants
* The business objective and team goals
* Strategic and background fit
* Any assumptions
* Acceptance criteria
* User stories
* User design and interaction
2. User Experience Design Document
User experience starts from the requirements phase and moves all the way to after the software is released. The UX design process includes researching, creating a prototype, testing usability, and designing the actual part. Such a process requires a lot of clear documentation to achieve the outlined goals.
Each of these steps should have proper documents. For example, the research stage documentation includes:
User scenario: the user scenario document covers all the steps a user persona will move through before accomplishing a certain task. Information covered here includes what users will do as opposed to just giving the thought process.
User personas: a summary of information gathered through surveys. The information gives specific features of the actual users and focuses on motivation and behavior.
Scenario map: this document highlights all the possible options a user has at a particular phase. The maps lay out all the possible outcomes alongside intersecting scenario steps.
UX style guide: this document captures a software’s future design patterns. Additionally, it describes all the types of content used, UI elements, and defines the necessary rules to follow when arranging the elements and content types for efficiency.
User story map: This can be in the form of a scheme or table containing user stories. It allows developers to arrange the product’s backlog of user stories into future applications.
3. Software Architecture Document
The software architecture document covers all the main architectural decisions that a solution architect makes. While it may not be possible to list everything here, it is advisable that you provide an in-depth explanation of the highly relevant and challenging ones.
The major sections include:
* Architecture and design principles: it covers the principles that guide the design and architecture engineering of the final product. For example, if you will use microservices architecture, it is important you highlight that information here.
* Design document template: this section provides a roadmap of what the architecture design will cover. It helps you map out all the necessary architectural solutions.
* User story description: use associated business processes to connect user stories. Avoid using technical language when describing the user story.
Solution details: this section offers the details of the contemplated solutions. Here you list the planned modules and their significance. Using diagrams to represent the solution makes it easy to communicate as well as understand the design and structure principles.
4. Source Code Document
This document provides the technical aspect of the software. It explains how the code will work. Even though it may not be necessary, it is crucial that you cover all the potentially confusing aspects.
The source code document covers the following:
* The data binding used
* Any frameworks used such as HTML generation
* Design patterns adopted alongside examples such as model-view-controller
* Other principles and patterns adopted
You should ensure that this document is simple and has short sections describing each element. Brief descriptions of the elements will ease understanding of the code used.
5. Quality Assurance Document
Every software development process should capture the quality assurance aspect. It is important that you describe the testing process followed. Often, the common testing documents for quality assurance include;
* Test strategy
* Quality management plan,
* Test plan
* Test checklists, and
* Test case specifications.
The quality assurance document should provide a clear guideline on how the testing process was carried out. A better way to achieve that would be to expound on; the features to be tested, the method of testing to be adopted, the timelines, as well as responsibilities of all the quality assurance teams.
6. Process Documentation
This document outlines all the activities that will be carried out from start to finish. The document is necessary for a well-organized and planned development process. The common aspects covered in this section include:
* Estimates, plans, and schedules
* Reporting metrics
* Working papers
* Standards to be followed
Process documents differ from one software to the other and process phase. Hence, such documents become obsolete and outdated. However, you can keep them as a part of the development process.
How to Write IT Software Projects Documents
Varying practices are applied when writing most IT software documents. If you are looking for a free guide on writing effective SRS document, here are important steps to follow:
Step 1: Carry out Thorough Research
Research forms the basic step for your IT development process. While it appears obvious, research should help you develop a clear scope and purpose of the documentation. Surveys and interviews are necessary at this stage as this gives you all the information you need about the subject matter of your project.
Step 2: Design and Structure
Structurally logical documentation makes your document usable and easy to navigate. Before creating the content, develop a plan on how you will present it. The implication is that you should have a map for on-page design and a structure about how to navigate the document.
Schemas or templates are useful in this step. For instance, an IT documentation template would include elements such as:
* The title
* An overview
* Table showing the content covered
* Read more
Step 3: Develop the Content
With your structure and documentation plan in place, the next step should be about creating the content. Following these tips to create valuable content:
* Start with a draft
* Write with a human touch
* Write for your readers
* Write as much as it is enough
* Use enough visuals
* Ask other people to review your content
* Edit, edit, and edit again
Step 4: Deliver and Test
After putting your documentation together, you will need to test it. Most people skip this step because a majority of the companies may lack the resources. However, it is an important step. Some of the aspects to put extra focus during the testing process include safety checks, navigation audits, and usability. Engage people outside your team to test and give you feedback around these areas.
Evidently, IT software development is an extensive process that requires effective documentations. While the end-user may not see the importance of such documents, the engineers, developers, and other stakeholders need them for ease of the entire process. Therefore, it is important to have the right documents for each step, from research to implementation and maintenance.