Documentation as code

The docs-as-code approach is a method that imitates the software development lifecycle when handling documentation. This implies that technical documentation is created and maintained using the same processes and tools as software code development.

Such processes include the use of IDEs to create documentation, version control systems to store and version it, automated testing, and continuous integration and delivery workflows.

Importance of Docs-as-code

  • Efficiency and consistency:

    The adoption of Docs-as-code streamlines documentation processes by leveraging version control, automation, and collaboration tools to ensure that all team members work with the most recent, approved versions for consistent project-wide coherence.

  • Organization and collaboration:

    The approach promotes collaboration by allowing different team members to contribute at the same time, increasing agility and responsiveness. Using a separate documentation repository also enhances structure, accessibility, and serves as a concentrated point for collaboration.

  • Continuous Improvement:

    Docs-as-Code aligns with the principles of continuous improvement, enabling iterative enhancements and updates based on user feedback and evolving project requirements.

  • Version Control and automation:

    Implementing version control, particularly with tools like Git, helps in the tracking of changes, the management of revisions, and the facilitation of effective collaboration among team members. This also makes it easier to integrate automation tools to reduce manual work, minimize errors, and improve overall documentation efficiency.

  • Continuous Integration and Deployment:

    Implementing continuous integration and deployment practices ensures that documentation changes are validated and deployed automatically, accelerating the delivery of up-to-date documentation.

  • Collaboration and Review:

    Through effective feedback loops, incorporating collaborative tools and code review processes improves the quality and accuracy of documentation.

Fundamentals of Docs-as-Code

1. Version control and automation

Using version control in combination with automation tools, particularly Git’s features, allows for more effective collaboration and change tracking. Automated processes for building, testing, and deploying documentation streamline workflows and minimize errors to enhance collaboration for documentation.

2. Plain Text Formats

Opting for plain text formats, such as Markdown, ensures simplicity, readability, and compatibility across various platforms. It empowers both technical and non-technical contributors to participate in the documentation process.

3. Documentation-as-code repository and site generation

Setting up a dedicated documentation repository enhances organization and accessibility, functioning as a centralized hub for collaboration, tracking changes, and access to the latest documentation assets. Additionally, automated tools like Sphinx or MkDocs transform plain text documentation into user-friendly websites, improving accessibility and presentation.

4. Continuous Integration and Deployment

Implementing continuous integration and deployment practices ensures that documentation changes are validated and deployed automatically. This accelerates the delivery of up-to-date documentation to end-users.

5. Collaboration and Review

Incorporating collaboration tools and code review practices into the documentation workflow enhances the quality and accuracy of documentation. Feedback loops enable continuous refinement.

6. Testing and Continuous Improvement

Implementing testing tools in documentation helps in the detection and correction of problems, thus ensuring the documentation’s reliability and integrity. Docs-as-Code, which embraces continuous improvement, involves reviewing and updating documentation on a regular basis based on user feedback and developing project requirements, assuring its continued efficiency.

Common hurdles in Docs-as-code

While the use of Git and Markdown in Docs-as-code greatly empowers technical writers and contributors, it is critical to identify potential issues. Some fear that these tools will require a steep learning curve for non-technical authors, thus restricting collaboration. Training programs, user-friendly interfaces, and supporting documentation, on the other hand, can bridge this gap, making these tools more accessible to a wider audience.

We’ve taken our documentation processes to the next level by embracing version control, plain text formats, automation, and other essential components. Looking ahead, we expect the Docs-as-code approach to expand further, ensuring that our documentation stays a dynamic and important tool for both our team and users.