I stopped thinking much about documents 20+ years ago. I know that most business processes still demand them (stage-gate, systems engineering, new product development, government contracting, proposals, etc.). I know that lots of effort is expended in maintaining document templates, filling in these templates with paragraph prose, prettifying them to match format requirements, vetting them through reviews, publishing them to appropriate distributions and managing document baselines. Systems engineers are trained in “Writing good requirements” as if requirements derivation was a product of Shakespearean talents, not thinking clarity and skill.
Documents are lousy containers for knowledge. Knowledge is created continuously when people THINK. Thinking is always done is some CONTEXT which builds a LINK between knowledge objects (decisions, requirements, alternatives, risks, plans, models, etc.). If you follow the typical document-generation process, you think, then switch gears to a completely separate process of writing that loses the context and fails to preserve the links. It’s more work, takes longer and produces lots of redundant, disconnected, out-of-context information.
The Decision Driven® Information Architecture that I shared in my October 24, 2008 post is an example of an information-centric view of knowledge. It links objects to objects as they are created; it maintains continuous traceability at the object level between the valuable bits of knowledge. All knowledge is created and stored in context of the thinking that created it; there’s no second-pass writing assignment and no redundant copies of information spread about multiple documents.
A knowledge-centric process (of which Decision Driven® methods are an instance) can generate all the documents that any process should require, but it treats these documents as mere “views” or “snapshots” of the real information. These views can be regenerated on-the-fly and always match the latest state of the knowledge (which typically resides in a well-structured database). That may be one reason why document-based processes still rule; an information-based approach makes visible the current state of your thinking and will highlight any gaps. But the truth only hurts when it should…
Capture your knowledge using the Decision Driven® Information Architecture approach that is central to the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to start your free trial of DDSF.