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Technical documentation in the agile development environment – what is Scrum?

A Scrum team consists of about nine colleagues, who work together on the design, development, test and technical documentation. The teams work interactively to develop products of maximum quality. Teamwork has priority here: all work that needs to be done, including technical documentation, is done by everyone together. Within the framework of agile development, documentation is an inseparable aspect of the product. There can be no product without documentation.

In a Scrum team, writers have a deeper insight into product development. They communicate more frequently with developers, even informally.

Special tools help the teams plan work packages and track them at any time. The work of the Editorial and Development teams, divided into backlogs, is very transparent. As a result, all team members can plan their work well.

A Scrum meeting is an ideal opportunity to keep abreast of the progress. Hence technical writers should be integrated into the Scrum team right from sprint 1 and should participate in the meetings.

How the Scrum methodology changes the working method in an agile development environment:

  • Workload
    The Scrum processes allow writers to gauge the workload better because they do not work towards achieving one single deadline but prepare documentation on the basis of the backlogs.
  • Iterative development
    The development process needs to change. The Technical Writing and Development departments have to adapt themselves to this new working method in equal measure.
  • Project planning
    The Project Managers develop a project plan, which comprises sprints, milestones and deadlines. For instance, this can include a deadline for documentation.
  • Defining work packages
    The creation of individual texts is a backlog-item, which also strengthens the position of the writer in the team: review, testing and updating of documentation should be considered in every sprint.
  • Maintaining a better overview
    Writers must create and manage content in a way that allows them to modify and deliver the documentation at any time. A content management system can be used here; it would support the complete lifecycle of technical documentations in many ways.

What are the advantages of the Scrum method?

The Scrum method offers many advantages for developers and technical writers alike. Good organisation of all tasks into sprints and backlogs makes work transparent and easy to plan. But the prerequisite for this is that the efforts that go into the typical tasks of writers, for example interviews with developers or quality assurance, should also be recorded. The entire project is very transparent and is characterised by a high level of communication between the Scrum team members. Professional content management systems help in the management of technical documents in order to achieve high-quality drafts at the end of a sprint.

However, this method has its disadvantages too. Since the entire Scrum method is very agile, the team members need to work independently to a great extent. One aspect of the concept is that responsibilities are not assigned to roles. So there can be complications if the team members are used to rigid hierarchical company structures. The fact that it is not defined who completes how many tasks can lead to friction.

In this respect, the introduction of agile development processes and the integration of writers into the Scrum teams must be accurately evaluated in advance.

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