The Smart Docs Module

The full replacement for Microsoft Word when managing requirements

In this article we cover the features and benefits of the Smart Docs module. 
Designed to bridge the gap between document creation and requirements management, Smart Docs empowers users with documentation capabilities within Azure DevOps. This means your documents now live within your team’s project, and your team can finally benefit from a complete and central source of truth.
 

What is Smart Docs?

Smart Docs is an online document authoring system that is built directly into Azure DevOps. As part of
the Modern Requirements4DevOps Enterprise Edition, this module stands as a full replacement for
Microsoft Word when managing requirements.
 
There are many engaging ways to use Smart Docs.
The most obvious way this tool can benefit your team is by allowing you to create living requirements
documents within Azure DevOps. What do we mean by living requirements documents? If you have ever
used Microsoft Word as part of your requirements management process you have undoubtedly had to
deal with the pains of changing requirements. Changing requirements is in and of itself typically
something teams can handle, but when a requirement is in “some document” which lives “somewhere”
… teams can go mad.
 
Building living requirements documents means that you can create a Smart Doc and include your
requirements within that document. If you update a requirement from the Smart Doc interface, or make
changes to a requirement in the backlog, that requirement will be updated everywhere. This means no more hunting for documents which contain the requirements you have changed.
 
The documents we see teams using include, but are not limited to:
  • Business Requirements Documents
  • System Requirements Documents
  • Functional / Non-functional Requirements Documents

What value does Smart Docs offer?

As a purpose-driven tool, Smart Docs has been uniquely designed to tackle real-world issues our users
are currently facing, or which they have already faced in the past. By working closely with our
community, and strategically incorporating feedback, we have built a tool that offers the following
unique value proposition:
  • Documents (and their versions) created in Smart Docs are saved within your Azure DevOps
  • project.
  • Removes the need for all third-party applications and document repositories.
  • Documents are updates automatically as requirements change anywhere in Azure DevOps.
  • Documents can be versioned, compared, output, and reviewed, directly from with Azure DevOps.
 

What are the Use Cases for Smart Docs?

When we asked a group of prospects how important documentation is to their requirements management process, we found that most teams value documentation to a high degree.
 
We also found however, that teams found documentation to be the first thing to “fall by the wayside” when a project gets going.
 
When asked why this was the case, teams responded that it was the most difficult asset to maintain, and
that document creation required a large amount of time copy and pasting and the asset was often being
maintained separately from their requirements.
 
The following represents only a few Use Cases for Smart Docs.
USE CASE 1
My team currently copy/pastes requirements from Azure DevOps to Microsoft Word in order to create
documentation.
 
This takes a lot of time and is an error-prone process that we can’t rely on.
 
Using Smart Docs removes the need to copy and paste requirements to and from Microsoft Word. By
building up and maintaining your documentation in your project, you can trust that everything is always
up-to-date and ready for exporting.
USE CASE 2
My team has stopped using documentation because of the duplicate work required to create both
requirements and documents separately.
 
By using Smart Docs your team can now choose to build their requirements in Azure DevOps and drag
them into any document, or type a new requirement into their document and it will automatically show
up in your project’s backlog. As a true central source of truth model, Smart Docs will allow your team to
build everything once and use it wherever they need. Including in a document.
USE CASE 3
We only use documentation to get reviews from Stakeholders.
 
By using Smart Docs you can take advantage of the online document reviews we offer by using Smart
Docs in tandem with our Review module. If you are doing document reviews any other way you could
encounter the following obstacles.
 
  • One person is responsible for the entire review.
  • There can be multiple Stakeholders.
  • The person responsible for the review must consolidate the changes each Stakeholder would
  • like made to the document.
This produces a final document that needs to go through the approval process again.
The cycle repeats – in some cases for weeks.
 
With our document reviews, your team can collaborate and see all requested changes before a
document is altered. These changes can then be approved, and a final document created in one cycle.
 

How do I use Smart Docs?

A completed Smart Doc is an easy to navigate collection of both context sections and requirements.
Teams use Smart Docs everyday for the benefits it adds over a Microsoft Word driven process. 
Here are some of the ways your team can use Smart Docs. 
 
Make a Meta Template:
Before your team jumps head-first into Smart Docs, you will want to create a Meta Template. Meta Templates offer you the ability to construct a structure to your document. You can choose where team members can place context elements (Sections), and where they can add specific requirements in your document. This is a one-time operation and can be used with multiple documents built on the same structure.
 
Add Context to your Documents
Teams can add context to Documents by adding in a rich-text Section.
Once a Section is added to your document you can add rich text to it the same way you do in Microsoft Word.
This allows you to have free form control over the content that gets added into any given Document.
 
Create a Reusable Document Template
Many teams currently have a requirements document sitting on their Desktop which includes all the necessary elements that that document needs to include. For instance, your team might have a “BRD Template” they open which already has the Introduction, Scope, Risks, and a placeholder for Business Requirements already laid out to get started quickly. Our reusable templates offer the same ability, allowing users to quickly get started with a Document Template of their choice.
 
Add Requirements to your Documents
You can add requirements into your document in one of two different ways using Smart Docs.
  1. You can publish requirements into your Azure DevOps project simply by building onto your document. This allows you to add to your project from a document-driven workflow.
  2. You can insert requirements that are already in your project into any document.
All requirements added to documents will reflect any changes made elsewhere in the project. This means if you need to change a requirement in the backlog, those changes will already be reflected in the latest version of your document – no more need to update requirements in several places.
 
Explore Version Management
You can manage document versions easily using our built-in version management tools. Versions can be created manually or automatically depending on how you plan to use your documents. The version management tool comes complete with a Compare feature which enables you to compare any two versions of a document and see an easy to understand red-line view of the changes.
 
Have your Document Reviewed
You can send documents to Stakeholders (for free) for them to review. Using our Review module, document reviews enable all your document reviewers/approvers to collaborate in the same space. This way teams can see who has approved/rejected a work item and why. Teams can then discuss changes before any change is enacted.
 
Output Documents
Last but not least, all of the document you create in Smart Docs can be easily exported as Word, PDF, or HTML. We allow nearly limitless customization of your document when saving as Word, and provide you options to configure different attributes of a requirement to include in your report.
Author: Dustin Heathers
Time to Read: 5 minutes

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