05 March 2021

Tech Perspective #26: How Specific Is ‘Too’ Specific?


Have you ever baked a brownie? If you haven’t, I highly recommend doing so, especially if you are a sweet-tooth. If you have, you probably know that it’s an easy recipe, doable even for inexperienced bakers. Cocoa, eggs, flour, sugar, with a pinch of salt. What can go wrong?

Normally, a brownie preparation segment is about 1/3 page-long. Well, not if you’re baking for the Pentagon. Then you must prepare yourself for much more complicated recipe.

The US military food specialists are ordered to follow a 26 page-long recipe. It goes as far as to explain what an egg is. Why is it so long and so strict? The military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. Also, it needs to satisfy regulatory requirements.

As Jeremy Whitsitt, with the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, said, “One thing we like to say is, ‘What would happen if you cooked a meal, stored it in a stifling hot warehouse, dropped it out of an airplane, dragged it through the mud, left it out with bugs and vermin, and ate it three years later?”.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Why do I keep rumbling about brownies? As surprising as it may seem, the 26 page-long brownie recipe effectively illustrates the documentation problem that many companies struggle with.

Imagine being a regular baking enthusiast wanting to prepare something sweet. Would you use a short and informative regular recipe, or maybe a military-specific, highly-bureaucratic one?

Unfortunately, many companies don’t have a comfort of selection. Daily, they must struggle with official, heavy-worded documents and regulations. On top of that, they often have problems with establishing the right level of detail in their internal documentation.

Even though documentation should cover all the important issues to facilitate the work of the company, covering too many details and going too deep may have the opposite effect. As Eliza Kasperuk writes in her article about project documentation, “It’s important to remember that documentation should provide value and include only the most important information.”

After all, there’s no point in defining what a computer is to a software developer. However, how to be specific just enough?

The Right Level of Detail

I’m fully aware that dealing with and preparing documentation is probably the least-favourite responsibility of the developers and business owners. I understand it; it takes time, is repetitive and uninspiring.

However, once you learn that the right documentation can save your company time and money, you may change your mind and look kindly at it.

First of all, it may be advisable to prepare a documentation guide or process patterns. For many people, documentation is a closed book; they simply don’t know how, and why they should write it. By providing them with a comprehensive guide you facilitate the process and dispel any doubts. Also, by unifying the documentations, you familiarise your staff with it and make it more understandable.

Of course, as the title of this series suggests, you can always use a little help of technology. By investing in Information Management System, you can facilitate storing, organising, and retrieving information. You can use it to organise and systematise your documentation, but also to improve workflows and automate processes. With a custom version of the software, you can adjust all functionalities to your company’s requirements and needs.

Information Management System not only supports your internal documentation but also compliance with regulations. Investing in such software will help you keep just the right level of detail.

Documentation- A Profitable Burden

Keeping and managing red tape is a challenge. Unfortunately, it cannot be avoided.

However, with the right attitude and tools, it doesn’t have to be as troublesome and frustrating as it used to be. Long gone are days of paperwork in a literal sense. And thankfully so.

With the help of information management software, you can bring order and make documentation your ally, not an enemy.

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Marcin Bartoszuk
Chief Operating Officer

With Microsoft technologies related since 2005. He graduated from the Computer Science Faculty of the Bialystok University of Technology where he was the leader of the .NET Group and the Microsoft Student Partner. Four times finalist of the national stage of the Imagine Cup competition, and later the mentor and the jury member of the contest. Co-founder of the Bialystok .NET Group. He lectured .NET development at the Bialystok University of Technology. Microsoft MVP in the Client Application Development category in 2008-2010, when he actively participated in the IT community. Constant new technology enthusiast and IT consultant.