“What a wonderful world this would be”
Great song. But just consider for a moment what the world would be without documentation…
Agile software developers adhere to their manifesto of minimal documentation. Ideally, this means no documentation. Obviously this is intended to produce a product where the user knows immediately how to use it without having to read anything. How intuitive.
Teachers are the first to say that people learn different ways. Not everybody reads. True, many people consider themselves visual learners. But isn’t it a “wow” moment when you hear somebody say, “I can’t think of the last time I read a book.” Even if you are a visual learner, is it a justifiable reason to throw all documentation into the trash and stop producing documentation?
For a second, consider some of the issues the world would face if documentation goes away:
- No laws written down. Anarchy
- No written music. OK, only the musicians with a great memory can play.
- No ownership. How can you prove property ownership with a he said-she said?
- No Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Consider the verbal training that would have to occur and the slow-down of business
before everybody on the assembly line knows what is going on and expected.
- No written contracts. How do you know what work is going to be done and what you agreed to? Back to the handshake is a man’s word.
So, what does this mean as digital technology runs pell-mell over documents as we know them, and all communication and transactions going to mobile devices?
Well, the advantages of course are the mobility and flexibility – a better user experience (TBD)? But where are the checks and balances?
It’s bad enough that people don’t know how to read their receipts from the store, or their EOBs from their insurance companies. But where will the paper trail be for tracking purchases against bank accounts? Taxes will be a nightmare (more than they are already)!
Are we to take for granted that the appropriate controls are in place to ensure we aren’t getting ripped off on a daily basis? What about the proof of what was purchased, or being able to compare the quality of the goods promised against what you received?
“Sir, do you have your receipt?”
Documentation, whether in paper form or digital, will still have to include controls as well as secure processes to ensure appropriate storage, retrieval, and archiving. Otherwise, how will we ever remember what we did last year, let alone what the previous generation did?
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