How To Create Your Team’s Onboarding Documentation? Best Practices For Your Developer Onboarding Process

・6 min read
How To Create Your Team’s Onboarding Documentation? Best Practices For Your Developer Onboarding Process

Whether you are launching a new project or adding a new team member to your team you want it to go as smooth as possible. It is not enough for you to have all the necessary information - the key is to have your employees well informed.

Keep on reading to find out how to create a perfect onboarding documentation.

What is project onboarding?

Project onboarding is the process of adding resources to a project. During the process, you gather resources and team members necessary to finish the project.

The goal of project onboarding is to ensure that everyone involved in the project understands the requirements and business objectives, knows their role and the expected outcome. Thanks to project onboarding a potential new team members can fully contribute to the project, spend less time figuring out their individual tasks, which influences the overall duration and success of the project.

Why do you need an efficient project onboarding process?

There are quite a few advantages that an efficient project onboarding process introduces like:

  • time savings - if your process is precisely prepared, you will need less time to educate each new team member
  • reduces the ‘bus factor’ - bus factor refers to the number of people in a team that would result in project failure if they were hit by a bus. This takes into consideration potential vacation, sick leaves and departures from the company. The most threatening bus factor is 1, the larger the bus factor value is, the better
  • long-term maintenance strategy - by paying attention to the new members you take care of the future of your project and team
  • new team members understand the high-level architecture of your project

Project onboarding documentation

Now that we tackled what a project onboarding documentation is you must be wondering how to create one? Let me explain. There are several ways to build onboarding documentation. They are complementary in a way, so it is good to maintain all of them. Here we present some key groups of documentation.

  1. test scenarios: if written in BDD (behavior-driven development), test scenarios may serve as good documentation of functionalities. It will also be a base for further manual testing as well as automated scripts. If written in the early phases of the project, your client may also verify if that is what they expect from the application. Example of such test scenarios written in Gherkin:

  1. glossary: consider creating a document containing definitions of objects, functionalities and whole areas - anything that has a specific name in your project. If there are a lot of such names, a glossary will help anybody who is not familiar it the domain of the project.
  2. FAQ section: if some questions are asked over and over again and they can be easily documented, you should create a FAQ section in your project’s documentation. Thanks to that, a potential newcomer will look at those questions before asking anyone, which will speed up the onboarding process.
  3. kick-off documentation: if created, provide the newcomer with this document. Kick-off has some things in common with onboarding, so the document should help them with setting up the environment, gaining necessary accesses etc.

Other ways to speed up the project onboarding process:

Having good onboarding documentation makes the process much easier, but there are also other things you can do to ensure a seamless onboarding:

  1. record tutorial videos: decide if you need short videos covering only basic paths or comprehensive set of movies mentioning all the functionalities. The short option will make it possible for newcomers to get a quick idea of what the application is about. The comprehensive option will help you with a detailed onboarding of a potential new member, especially if you deal with a big project. Maybe you want to have them both?
  2. create a structure diagram of your system: it should contain domains mapping of your apps and, additionally, the owners of each domain/part of the system. This is a very efficient way to show the complexity of the system along with internal and external dependencies.
  3. set up an onboarding meeting: if you have any documentation or artefacts prepared, the new member should probably get to know with them first. Although, it is hardly possible to cover all important aspects in written form, so you will need to answer the remaining questions yourself.

Onboarding a new team member

It may happen that the new member of the project happens to become a new member of your team. There are some key steps you can take to successfully onboard a new team member:

  1. Articulate the work scope, objectives and key responsibilities - let them know your expectations and their responsibilities
  2. Set the work schedule - during your first meeting talk about the team’s schedule, recurring meetings etc
  3. Talk about communication tools - show them what you use to communicate within the team, set up their account
  4. Introduce them to the rest of the team - it is an essential part of onboarding to integrate the new member with the rest of the team - you can take turns introducing yourselves or even schedule one-on-one meetings
  5. Do check-ups on them and other team members - do not micromanage, yet remember to regularly check on your new team member - ask them how the day went or if they have any questions

If you stick to those tips, everybody is going to not only feel welcome and comfortable but also like they know what to do and what is expected of them.

Keep your onboarding artefacts up to date

It is super important to validate your documentation on newcomers on a regular basis - if they need a lot of assistance in sections that can be documented and solve the newcomer’s obstacles - then choose the form of documentation and prepare it.

Maintain your documentation, for instance, if after a few months after last onboarding, there were some changes that make your documentation deprecated - update it to keep it synced.

Make documentation first-class citizen in your project if you know it is a long-term project, it allows your developers and other project members to better understand your business, even validate some concepts and definitions.

Conclusions

An onboarding process is all about transferring the knowledge to your team members, no matter if they are solely in-house developers or a part of a mixed team (in-house and outsourced). A well-documented one will spare you frustration and save lots of time for you and everyone involved.

Although it might take some time at first to get used to and create a good enough documentation, it will definitely pay off in the future.

If you need help a team that can develop your product and seamlessly integrate with your in-house developers, feel free to contact us.

Related articles