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Saturday, November 18, 2023

Chaos Idea and Observe — Writers and Customers in Agile

Agile. The philosophy has influenced IT growth because the 90s, but it surely nonetheless strikes worry into the hearts of writers with a raft of phrases and basic processes that conjure up some terrifying potentialities. Agile can sound chaotic and hostile to a author.

  • Scrum: The phrase simply drips with testosterone-charged motion, of beefy, sweaty workforce members locked collectively and heaving towards the opposition. The place does the author slot in? Am I the ball that’s stomped and kicked into the turf?
  • Lean: No specs? I’ve to depend on each day stand-up conferences, face-to-face dialog, electronic mail threads, job boards, and the difficulty monitoring system? And I’ve to make use of these sources to write down doc for product I most definitely can’t see or use?
  • Dash: I’m pushing alongside within the scrum, racing to supply shippable doc each two to 4 weeks? With out specs? Or a product? Whereas collaborating in a each day assembly for each scrum?

Even the Agile Manifesto appears to purpose a stake straight on the author’s coronary heart in its core values: “we have now come to worth working software program over complete documentation”.

When studying about consumer documentation in Agile, I’ve observed that the majority commentators focus their dialogue on assuaging writers’ fears. They recommend processes and methods for writers to remain sane and productive within the face of chaos, and possibly even to thrive and be blissful. I believe blissful writers are an excellent factor. Nevertheless, as I discussed in a earlier column, blissful, productive writers don’t assure consumer success. I used to be as soon as a author fortunately producing 1000’s of pages for pissed off customers who propped up their screens with my manuals.

I’ve labored in a hybrid Agile atmosphere for about six years now. I’m nonetheless (largely) sane. Suggestions from coworkers and clients signifies that I’m nonetheless productive. I can say with out reservation or qualification that I’m blissful. Why am I blissful? I’ve skilled among the writer-friendly points of Agile, developed some coping methods for the not-so-friendly points, and I’ve seen among the advantages that Agile can carry to the consumer. I believe that Agile helps me be a greater customers’ advocate.

Writers in Agile

Agile is quick, however a number of practicalities mitigate the breakneck tempo for me.

The Little Issues

Agile methodologies emphasize steady iteration in small models of labor. The models of labor symbolize very particular consumer objectives. In Scrum, the smallest unit of deliverable work is named a consumer story.

Years of painful pre-Agile classes taught me to write down for reuse, and Agile’s fast-paced, iterative nature punishes customized, advert hoc writing. Subject-based authoring is a pure answer. Tales map practically one-to-one to matters. Every matter captures a unit of labor sufficiently as stand-alone content material for presentation to stakeholders and for launch notes. When it comes time to combine the brand new content material, I’ve labored exhausting to make sure that the general doc challenge is versatile and extensible sufficient to accommodate the brand new matter with minimal effort to replace and improve longer-form documentation.

The Massive Issues

Talking of longer-form docs, Agile methodologies could concentrate on atomic-level models of labor, however additionally they acknowledge the necessity for bigger, big-picture objectives and deliverables. For instance, Scrum extends the narrative metaphor and collects associated tales into epics. I can all the time negotiate sufficient time and sources for bigger documentation initiatives in an epic.


Due to the fixed churn of fast iterations, my to-do record is all the time full to bursting. As a protection, I carry out doc triage regularly. Each deliverable doesn’t require the identical stage of effort and overhead. For instance, a consumer story and its doc doesn’t all the time symbolize a whole and unbiased function for buyer supply. The tip consumer will be an inside stakeholder, which suggests I can nonetheless meet necessities with decrease calls for for manufacturing, integration, and supply (and decrease stress).

Much less Waste

In earlier growth regimes, I may toil for six months on a product or function that by no means noticed the sunshine of day. If a deliverable isn’t prepared for launch, it simply will get bumped to the following cycle for the following launch. With the discharge cycle so brief, the delay is seldom tragic. My doc content material follows proper alongside, staying related and recent each within the product and in my very own head. Expertise has taught me that I’ll see the function once more quickly.

Advantages for Customers

I’ve highlighted among the options of Agile and my response to them as a author, however what concerning the consumer? What, if something, does the consumer get out of Agile?

Recent Content material

Agile timelines with their frequent iterations make sure that the content material for an lively challenge isn’t any older than its growth cycle. Customers get entry to up to date content material each two to 6 weeks. As well as, after I obtain mid-stream suggestions or non-critical doc bugs, the doc replace is already within the plan. There isn’t a drama.

Higher Content material

Agile may enhance the standard of those frequent updates.

As a visual member of a number of scrums, I’m always speaking with builders and product homeowners. The reply to 90% of my questions is a brief dialog or a brief stand-up assembly away. My coworkers don’t have a stale, outdated spec to cover behind. They don’t really feel like they should disguise from me as a result of our interactions are fast and painless. I additionally don’t have a stale, outdated spec to cling to and provides me a false sense of safety. I spend a lot much less time answering questions like “The place did you get this? That is utterly improper/outdated/out of date!” Though I felt justified up to now after I answered “from the spec”, I bought no satisfaction from it. It wasn’t productive. I’d somewhat not generate unhealthy blood and burn goodwill. I’d somewhat the doc be right.

Aside from easy mechanical correctness, among the greatest concepts for doc enhancements have come from builders, account managers, and assist personnel. Ultimately, my customers profit from richer content material.

Consumer Enter

To cite one other merchandise from the Agile Manifesto: “we have now come to worth buyer collaboration over contract negotiation.” In concept, clients have a proper and lively function in growth. In observe, the extent of involvement can range primarily based on a number of elements, not the least how open they’re to collaboration and the way succesful they’re. When I’ve a pleasant, motivated buyer, I expertise  Agile at its most satisfying. I get constructive and progressive suggestions from the shopper as I’m writing the doc, and I do know that each one my customers will profit from the shopper expertise baked into the doc.

Agile will not be a silver bullet. It’s additionally not a monster that marginalizes and devours hapless writers. It’s merely a growth methodology with its personal set of challenges and advantages. I’ve come to interpret the Agile Manifesto’s valuation of “working software program” over “complete documentation” not as a menace however as an enjoinder. The purpose of product growth is to not write detailed specs and fats reference guides, however to ship a product that permits consumer success. Documentation nonetheless performs a key function is preserving the consumer blissful and profitable.

General, my time in Agile has led me to my very own easy tweak of the Manifesto: “I’ve come to worth working documentation over complete documentation.”

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