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Benefits of the Methodology to Evaluate Process Documentation

There are three major benefits to this method of documentation evaluation. The first is that it gives a snapshot of the quality of existing documentation at that point in time, particularly documentation of high value. If improvements are made to the material that result in new ratings, they can be compared to the current rating.

The second benefit is that this method gives us the ability to customize the criteria for quality and value of documentation to reflect changes in priority, strategy, or direction. In this way the methodology remains applicable regardless of the specific criteria used. The third benefit of this method is that it allows comparisons between different types of processes within an infrastructure, using the same standard of measure.

Once both the quality and value characteristics are evaluated, the two sets of attributes can be shown on a quality/value matrix as depicted in Figure 1. Quality ratings are shown along the horizontal axis, numerically increasing to the right from 0 to 30. Value ratings are shown along the vertical axis, numerically increasing as it ascends from 0 to 15. Each axis is scaled from the lowest quality and value ratings up to the maximum possible. The benefit of such a matrix is that it depicts both the value and quality of each piece of documentation on a single chart.

Figure 1 Documentation quality-value matrix.

The matrix is then divided into four quadrants. Points in the upper-right quadrant (1) represent documentation that's both high in value and high in quality. This is the desired result and constitutes excellent documentation that requires little or no improvements and only periodic reviews to ensure continued high quality. Points in the lower-right quadrant (2) signify material that is high in quality but of a lower value to a particular infrastructure. Documentation in this area is generally rated as good but could be improved.

The lower-left quadrant (3) represents documentation that is relatively low in both value and quality. Material in this area is designated as only fair and needs to be improved in quality. Since the value is low, improvements are suggested on a time-permitting basis. Points in the upper-left quadrant (4) indicate documentation that's high in value but low in quality. Documentation in this area is considered to be at the greatest risk since it represents material that is of particular importance to this organization but is of poor quality. Documentation in this quarter of the matrix should be improved as soon as possible to prevent adverse impact to processes, procedures, and services.

Several of my clients have evaluated dozens of key pieces of their infrastructure documentation and then graphed the results on a matrix of this kind. The matrix became a powerful tool since it identified instantly which pieces of documentation—those falling in the fourth quadrant—needed to be addressed most urgently. Managers and analysts both benefit from this identification. Rather than issuing a blanket statement that large amounts of documentation need to be generated, managers can direct analysts to initially concentrate on those pieces that have the lowest quality and highest value to the company. This method of evaluating the quality and value of documentation can make the task of improving it more appealing to IT analysts and less of a scourge.

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