Conquering Documentation Debt

How Information Mapping’s Core Principles Help Businesses Avert Common Crisis

Imagine for a moment if your daily diet lacked fruits, vegetables, proteins, and other key essentials. Whereas your taste buds may yearn for sweet delicacies, the human body will eventually cease to function without a proper foundation of nutrients and vitamins.

Likewise, your business cravings no doubt involve much of the good stuff – the industry breakthroughs, the A-list customers, and a quarterly revenue that shatters all of those preceding it.

Yet, without the routine support of first-rate documentation, your business can become depleted, even anemic, and eventually languish in limbo.

For many, maintaining quality documentation has become a mere afterthought. While the powers-that-be are forever plotting that next great innovation, enhancing employee handbooks, training manuals, operational procedures, and customer user guides lands on the bottom rung of priorities.

Although it seems convenient to leapfrog the time and financial investments of a full-fledged documentation campaign, the results can also be downright catastrophic.

Unfortunately, abandoning documentation has become all too commonplace in modern enterprising. We know of the ensuing dilemma as documentation debt.

Rarely appreciated but often overlooked, documentation serves as the cornerstone of any business model. Quality documentation solidifies company policies and standards while helping to drive revenue and sustainability.

But what if a company opted to abandon documentation efforts in favor of other facets of its operation? After all, upkeeping your documents amid an ever-changing industry requires time, labor, and a sizeable financial commitment. In fact, according to a 2012 IDC survey, 45.3% of companies admitted their documentation was woefully deficient in the matter of risk mitigation.

While documentation debt no doubt leaves a gaping wound, there is no existing band-aid fix to such a predicament.

Revisiting subpar documentation after longtime negligence can lead to a windfall of potential issues. For instance, critical business decisions can be compromised without the proper analytics on which they are based.

Documentation gaps equal deficits in data and visibility that ultimately deprive decision makers of key information and insight. A whopping 75.9% of businesses suffered significant risks and compliance issues over a 5-year span due to poor documentation management.

Also, the need to update shoddy, insufficient documentation may require a large-scale conversion project in which companies need to migrate data files from one software platform to another. Such a taxing project devours precious time and resources, not to mention company budgets.

Other untimely crises like security breaches and lawsuits increase the need for dependable documentation to prevent freefalling into further debt.


To mitigate the effects of documentation debt, Information Mapping provides a proven remedy through its unique, but effective methodology. Through its core principles, Information Mapping helps businesses perfect documentation on its very first go-round, thereby eliminating the demand for frequent revisions and maintenance.

The methodology is comprised of three components:

  • Modular information units – Paragraphs have been rendered obsolete in favor of blocks, chunks of relative information that are assigned proper labels. Once established, blocks are arranged in groups known as maps.
  • Information types – Information is thoroughly analyzed and categorized according to its specific purpose to the audience. The six information types include processes, procedures, facts, concepts, structures, and principles.
  • Research-based principles – To enhance simplicity and readability, information is arranged through the methodology’s six principles, which include chucking, consistency, relevance, labeling, integrated graphics, and accessible detail. For instance, relevance ensures that each chunk of content remains pertinent to a specific task, while labeling helps to quickly identify topics, tables, and images.

Also, Information Mapping’s Plain Language approach lends guidance in structuring and organizing copy for a wide spectrum of audiences, regardless of application tool or file output.

By adopting the Information Mapping® Methodology, companies can overcome the laborious tasks that come with tedious conversions or modernizing outdated documentation. Its core principles allow authors to generate crisp, quality documents that defy harmful debt and withstand the test of time.

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