Using Software Requirements Process Flows to Create User Guides

Without user guides, users will not only be slow to adopt a new system or tool—they may be hostile to the change. If you want to quickly create user guides for newly developed software and increase adoption rates, this blog post will share a different way to use software requirements to do just that.

Because Process Flows are probably the most commonly created requirements model, using Process Flows to create user guides should be within reach of most organizations. A guide derived from Process Flows explains how to perform everyday tasks done by regular users of the system, without any functional ambiguity. Users still learn about all of the independent features, only now they are presented in a logical manner that promotes usage of those features. Furthermore, the detailed knowledge that is required to execute a process will often be in the functional requirements that map to each of the process steps. If each business process is covered in a section of the user guide, then each individual action in those sections will be defined by one or more functional requirements.

Another way of thinking about this is comparing two methods of learning a new language: taking a language class, or learning a language by reading a dictionary. It’s possible, albeit very difficult, to learn a new language by going through a dictionary and learning what different words mean. Of course, this method won’t help much with elements of language such as grammar and colloquialisms—how the words are “used.” This is in stark contrast to a language class where you will be introduced to the new language word by word, with grammar, sentence structure, colloquialisms, and conversational flow—nuances that are impossible to pick up by reading a dictionary. The “reading the dictionary” example is much like user guides that describe individual features but don’t link them together. The second example is similar to user guides that describe business processes that can be executed by using multiple features together, something that users can relate to and which offers a far greater value proposition.

The next time a project you are working on comes to the phase of building user guides for the end users, give this method a try. Don’t be surprised if folks express more confidence in new systems, as they will have the means to do their job handed to them on a silver platter. In addition, this is a way for product managers and business analysts to add even more value to an organization!