Quick help on Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC) and the DDLC phases for technical writers who want to make a short but comprehensive presentation on DDLC to train new writers or prepare for an interview quickly:
Analysis: The prerequisite for this stage is that you should know, at a very high level, the product features or capabilities and the storehouses of information inside your organization. Often, bug stores or backlog stories, high-level and low-level design documents are the writer’s chief sources of information.
- Goals (The goals may vary. For example, a Getting Started Guide has a different goal from that of a User Guide or Release Notes.)
- Content requirements.
- Hosting needs (Where are the documents hosted, on the website, intranet, Cloud?)
- Delivery formats (PDF, WebHelp, Text, Online Help).
- Documentation tools (FrameMaker, Oxygen, RoboHelp, Word).
- Project management tools to be used.
- Project reporting needs.
- Project timelines for the various DDLC phases.
Design: During this phase, you will develop the draft documents with a separate Table of Contents (ToC) for each of them. Each document may not be more than a couple of pages. Get approval from the stakeholders (people who will approve the documents for release), along with their suggestions. You may have to iterate this process to get the ToC to match the stakeholders’ perspective. The output of this phase is documents with Table of Contents.
Development: Write the draft content. This is probably the longest DDLC phase. Keep asking loads of questions even as you write. Asking questions to clear your doubts will phenomenally reduce technical and editorial review time in the Review phase. The output of this phase is draft documents ready for reviews.
Review: Technical and editorial reviews occur during this DDLC phase. You can look forward to a minimum of two technical reviews and a minimum of one editorial review. This DDLC phase ends with the stakeholders signing off the documents for release. The products of this phase are documentation that is ready for release.
Release: During this stage, you may need to provide the path to the documents to the release team for integration into the Bill of Material (BoM) and the release image. Other activities may include archiving and lessons learnt document preparation.
DDLC for technical writers is not a stand-alone topic. One of the major related components is the style guide. Read an in-depth discussion about Style Guides.