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The What, How, and Who of Document Strategy

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We’re about halfway through this series of blog posts on document strategy (relying heavily on Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy). Before I go further, I want to take a backward glance at the topics covered up to this point:

Part 1. How “key documents” can help focus your document strategy design

Part 2. What a document strategy is

Part 3. How to develop a document strategy

Part 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing a document strategy

Craine writes that the documents, technology, and people that make up your organization are the “what, how, and who” of a document strategy:

  • What documents are important
  • How they are produced
  • Who cares about the documents’ performance

In continuation of the baseline assessment (covered in Part 4), which is extremely important in determining where your company currently stands as well as what it hopes to achieve down the road, you must naturally consider the key documents, the technology used to produce them, and the people who care about them. By doing so, you’ll ensure that the document strategy you design is comprehensive, yet still practicable.

Key Documents: A Quick Recap

If you recall, Part 1 of this blog series discussed your company’s key documents. These are the documents that are the initial focus of your document strategy. For more detail, you can check out that blog post, but I’ll recap it quickly here:

Key documents are those that are crucial for your organization’s business functions. They have the greatest influence on the success of your organization and are used to help your company achieve its vision and goals. You can also distinguish key documents because they offer the best likelihood for success, the most improvement potential, or the most problems. The success of these documents in the overall document strategy can often provide the biggest return for your effort.

Technology: How It Helps or Hurts Your Documents

Technology is what is used at your company to create and manage the key documents. This technology can range from the nearly extinct fax machine to a WordPress website. The goal here is to get a comprehensive view of your current capabilities without getting caught up in any details, tech talk, or marketing embellishments.

To help examine the technology of your key documents, Craine recommends you become intimately familiar with each step of each key document’s lifecycle:

  1. Creation
  2. Production
  3. Revision
  4. Archive
  5. Retirement

Overall, not unlike our own lifecycle!

For each of these steps, Craine has provided a list of questions to ask yourself and others in order to extract the necessary information in a systematic manner. For example: What are the requirements of this document process? What are the technical aspects? What are the technological strengths and weaknesses?

People: They Are the Document Constituency

The people are the main reason for the document strategy. After all, without them, who would care about the documents or the technology?

“Documents are the one single thing that can stop a company cold, yet no one is in charge.” – Kevin Craine

 

That’s a disconcerting thought, but never fear because there is such a thing as a “document constituency.” The document constituency consists of:

  • Authors
  • Producers
  • Stakeholders
  • Readers

Not only should you know the constituency for each key document, you’ll need to have their support as you proceed with the document strategy design. Furthermore, each type of constituent has a different set of requirements, expectations, and restrictions, and it’s important to consider this in the design of the document strategy.

Another reason why it’s important to identify each document’s constituency is because their activities and requirements influence the document’s message and the medium. The document’s message is what information it contains, including its format and construction. The document’s medium is how it’s presented: typically either paper or in digital form.

Of all the document constituents, Craine notes that the Producers need special consideration. “Producers need the right information from the right sources at the right time, as well as the right staffing and equipment in order to produce documents with acceptable quality, timeliness, and cost.”

That’s a tall order, and the document producers often feel the stress associated with it. Their needs are often at odds with the other members of the document constituency. One of your key functions as a document strategist is to ease the friction between the producers and the other members.

A Herculean Challenge Reaps a Huge Awareness

It certainly seems like a Herculean challenge to collect the necessary information about your organization’s key documents, the technology used to produce them, and the people who form the documents’ constituency – all the while keeping in mind the values, goals, and needs of your company. But keep in mind that what you’ll unearth from all of this examination isn’t just more information, it’s your own awareness of where you are as a company and where you need to go. If you can stay the course, the path you’re on is one that will well serve your organization’s needs.

REFERENCES:

Kevin Craine’s book, Designing a Document Strategy

 

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Related Reading

Pt 1 “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Strategy
Pt 2 One Way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?
Pt 3. How to develop a document strategy
Pt 4. Baseline assessment: The first step in developing a document strategy

 

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