Why does my firmware need … documentation?

Documentation does not exist in isolation. It is justified in the context of your development ecosystem. Since I don’t know how you work, I will describe how we used documentation, and why.

Our Quality Process was ISO9000-compliant. Among other things, we needed to show that our development was controlled. Our Project team also needed us to monitor progress. It is too risky to wait until a development is complete to discover problems. But this control was not something imposed on us, it was a sensible practice we all accepted.

For every module, of whatever size, we followed a two-stage process: plan it, then do it. [There was some to-ing and fro-ing between the two, but that’s not what we’re focussing on here.] There was only room for two control points, a review of the plan, and a review of the final output, so that’s how we worked. Our designers produced a design document, describing their plan, and the team reviewed it, to confirm that development should continue.

Among other things, our review of the plan confirmed that it left space for coding, which is also design. Too much design up-front is as bad as too little. Reviewing the design document allowed us to make these checks.

This was why we found our firmware needed documentation. I believe that similar reasoning applies to your design and development process too, but only you can be the judge of that. At least consider the matter carefully: does your firmware need documentation? If so, what, and how much?

This blog post is the latest in a series that is longer than I expected it to be. 🙂 Their main (intended) purpose is to stimulate discussion, so please leave a comment. Thanks for dropping by! [Find me on Twitter as @Patternchaser.]

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Why does my firmware need … documentation?

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