How 5 Companies Use Internal Documentation To Scale More Efficiently

Andy Cook
July 31, 2020

Internal documentation is a written record of your company’s processes that your employees can use as a reference to get their work done. And although your customers may never see it, it is one of the most important parts of your business.

That’s because, according to McKinsey, the average employee spends almost 20% of every workweek tracking down the information or colleagues who can help them do their jobs. And that wasted time is expensive — for example, it would cost you $10,000 per year for someone who earns the median U.S. salary.

Internal documentation helps with more than just reducing expenses, though. It’s a form of internal communication, and numerous studies have shown that“companies with highly effective internal communication practices produce superior financial results and enjoy greater organizational stability.”

So, simply put, you can’t afford to ignore it.

To inspire you to get started with internal documentation, here is how five companies leveraged it to scale their business, culture, and survive high-speed growth.

1. How IMGE Used Internal Documentation to Scale their Onboarding

How IMGE Used Internal Documentation to Scale their Onboarding

Onboarding is critical for your employees’ success (and longevity) with your company. But employee onboarding takes a lot of work to do it well, and many cut the process short when they have competing priorities.

This was a conundrum that IMGE, a full-service digital agency, faced recently.

Every minute IMGE’s teams spend on internal processes is a minute they can’t spend on work for clients. And since they were growing quickly and needed to hire to keep up with the workload, balancing time between onboarding new team members and doing client work was a challenge.

Build one training program in one place

The team at IMGE knew they needed to find a way to transfer their knowledge to new hires more efficiently. So, they sat down and documented it.

However, as their team grew, their documentation started to spread across multiple platforms (Google Docs, Microsoft Office, etc.), making it hard for new hires to find definitive answers to their questions.

“We did this whole transformation from the old world to the new world. As we were going through this, we soon realized we needed one place where all of our resources, tips, and institutional knowledge could be shared,” explained Alex Boedigheimer, director of marketing at IMGE.

To address this, they developed a single, cohesive employee training program that combined all of their onboarding documentation in Tettra.

“We sat down and turned everything into a process that is repeatable so we can train faster. As we hire more people and scale up, we can cut down on the time we’re using to teach people by giving them reference points. We want them to rely on Tettra and use Tettra as the primary resource to resolve questions quickly.”

Today, new hires and contractors can get answers to their questions from the internal documents that live in Tettra by simply typing their topic into a Slack command. This has enabled IMGE to move faster than ever before while still giving their clients the time and attention they deserve.

2. How URX Used Internal Documentation to Drive Product Innovation

How URX Used Internal Documentation to Drive Product Innovation

A study of over five decades worth of research papers and patents shows that when it comes to innovation, teams readily outperform individuals — but only if that team is diverse and can work together effectively.

This was a struggle that URX, a deeplinking SaaS company, experienced firsthand as they grew. Since they were developing a product that was the first of its kind, they had to spend a lot of time defining why it mattered.

We’re building a business and a product that has never existed in the market before. There’s no precedent,” said founder John Milinovich. “So much of our time is spent on how we articulate what it is, why it’s valuable, what it can do for people.”

However, this presented a challenge: When new ideas are constantly thrown into the mix, and things change fast, how do you keep everyone up to speed?

Improve collaboration by building a wiki

John and his co-founder Andrew Look realized they needed a place to house the team’s ideas and their progression over time if they were going to be successful. So, they set to work building a central bank of knowledge — an internal wiki of company information accessible to everyone — to record everything related to their company’s development and history.

What started as a five-page essay on the company’s history soon became a record of everything they did, from code snippets for the engineering team to lead lists for the sales team. Their wiki, hosted on GitHub, became so vital to their success as a company that John spent 10-20% of each day curating and updating it for the team.

3. How Geckoboard Used Internal Documentation to Scale Customer Support

How Geckoboard Used Internal Documentation to Scale Customer Support

Research from Bain & Company shows that a just 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by up to 95%.

That’s why customer support is so important to companies like Geckoboard, whose analytics dashboard is essential for businesses all around the world. Without their customer service team available to address customer issues 24/7, their clients would be forced to look elsewhere for another solution.

For Geckoboard, that means having customer service team members distributed in different time zones across the globe. However, this creates a number of challenges. For example: Let’s say most of your team is in London, and you’re on the West Coast of North America. If you’re on the phone with a customer, it’s hard to get questions answered because you’ll be working when the rest of your team is asleep:

“When you have a remote team, especially with some team members so far away, there are cases where there’s no time in common whatsoever: Hawaii vs. London, for example,”said Luis Hernandez, VP of customer success at Geckoboard.

Centralize documentation for a distributed team

Luis’s team members knew they needed a more effective way to get answers independently. So, they turned to common solutions that other CS teams often use, like Google Docs and Zendesk.

However, as Luis explained, this was short-lived:

“We ended up with a bit of a mess. We had articles in Zendesk, info in Google Docs, and there wasn’t an easy way to search for them. They became out of date quickly, so you had to create new resources, which made things worse because then you didn’t know which one to trust.”

To address this, Luis built a central repository for their internal documentation in Tettra. That way, the CS team could easily find what they needed. This also helped them hit their team’s KPIs much easier (customer satisfaction, response and resolution times, etc.) and drastically simplified the process of onboarding international new hires.

4. How Rain Used Internal Documentation to Manage Complex Projects

How Rain Used Internal Documentation to Manage Complex Projects

Most problems that arise on product and engineering teams crop up due to a lack of clarity around process. As Jason Herndon, VP of products at Rain (a conversational UI agency), described it:

“The process makes the product. If you’re ok with a sloppy product, you can have sloppy process. If you want a tight, well-defined product, you need tight, well-defined processes.”

However, when you have a large team working on complex projects for multiple clients, like the team at Rain often does, it’s hard to keep your process tight, especially when those clients want you to work with their tools.

Outsource ‘the brain’

Jason knew a messy process would only get messier as their agency grew. So, he set out to document their workflows in a single place that everyone could easily reference (regardless of who they were working for or what tools they were using).

To do so, he created what he refers to as his “outsourced brain” in Tettra — a series of product, engineering, and operations playbooks, as well as process templates for some of their more common tasks. This significantly streamlined Rain’s workflow and has allowed them to work faster and more consistently than ever before.

5. How Wistia Used Internal Documentation to Scale their Culture

How Wistia Used Internal Documentation to Scale their Culture

Culture, or the beliefs and values of your organization, shapes the trajectory of a company. That’s why scaling it effectively is one of the top priorities for companies like Wistia, which is currently in hypergrowth.

In the past five years alone, the team has quadrupled in size, which created a number of new logistical challenges to address to keep the rattling rocket in one piece.

For example, office manager Kelsey Miller was managing the entire company’s internal knowledge through that growth period. But as the organization got bigger, it got more difficult.

“I’d be asked the same questions over and over again,” she said.

Tame document chaos

Kelsey and the team knew they needed a better way to align their team to the “Wistia Way” moving forward. So, they started documenting what made their company tick using a variety of tools — Slack, Google Docs, and even a custom-built internal wiki.

While each was great for sharing information in specific ways, there was still a lot of confusion. Documents often had multiple versions or were out of date, and messaging through Slack still meant a lot of repeat questions for people like Kelsey.

To address this, they centralized everything in Tettra, so it was easily accessible. They also took advantage of Tettra’s Slack integration so that team members could search for and share knowledge without ever leaving Slack.

“We rely on Tettra for all of our evergreen information…we use it for info with a longer lifespan, rather than basic meeting notes, for example.”

This made it easy for each of their team members to find answers to their questions in seconds without constantly having to message Kelsey.

Writing Things Down Isn’t Enough

It’s one thing to document what your organization does and how you do it. But that information won’t keep you nimble unless it’s organized so that your team can actually use it to get their work done.

That’s why a successful internal documentation strategy (one that actually streamlines your company) ensures that your documents are:

  1. Centralized. All of your documentation needs to be in a single location, like an internal wiki or website.
  2. Accessible. Can your documentation be easily searched for the answers you need?
  3. Up to Date. Information in your documents needs to be current at all times.

The more you can improve these three elements of your documentation, the more autonomously your team can work. Tettra ticks all of these boxes for an organized internal wiki—learn more here.