Agile Documentation. These two simple words represent a common question and concern for professionals who are new to agile. Many IT professionals who work in traditional environments are accustomed to spending a lot of their time carefully crafting documents to support the planning, requirements, and design of their project. They are often measured and compensated by their abilities to communicate ideas through documentation. After spending much of their career perfecting their communication skills through MS Word, Visio and MS Project, it is natural for them to wonder how projects can be successful without significant investment in documentation. Since one of the common early misconceptions about agile development is that documentation is no longer needed, you can understand how agile adoption would cause them to be concerned about both their careers and their projects.
For those who share this concern, let’s start by considering the following quote from Jeff Patton:
“Documents we write communicate our good thinking. You can write one without thinking. You can communicate good ideas without a document.” – Jeff Patton (Jan. 19, 2011 - twitter)Before you sit down to write your next document, ask yourself these two questions:
1. Do I use the process of creating a document as a vehicle for good thinking? If so, what other ways could be used as a vehicle for good thinking?
2. Do I use documentation as a means of storing and then transferring good ideas to other team members (current and future)? If so, what other ways could be used to store and transfer those ideas?
In part II I’ll talk about some additional guiding questions and suggestions to help you make decisions on when and how to use documentation in agile projects. Before you read that post, please consider Jeff’s words and the questions above as you think about the place documentation may or may not have on your project.