Documentation Done Cheap
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
There are a million different ways to make documentation for your Salesforce instance.
But I’m just too cheap to want to pay for more things if I can get by without them. And given my client base (small nonprofits), the fewer paid apps I can recommend, the better. And let’s face it, for most organizations any barrier to writing up good documentation, no matter how small, is just going to mean no documentation at all. And I consider that unacceptable.
So if you aren’t going to pay for a really good documentation solution (or aren’t going to pay for it right away) what is the responsible Salesforce admin to do?
(Note: I don’t really consider it “responsible,” to make a pile of Word documents, PDFs, or even Google docs. I’ll grant that getting something written is better than not writing any documentation at all. And the Google docs folder at least can be somewhere owned by the organization and they can have links between them. But really, a pile of Google docs is not super convenient.)
📑 What you need is a wiki. 📑
Don’t let that name intimidate you. A wiki is simply a collaboratively managed and edited website.
That's what you want to document a tool (Salesforce) that you’re all going to use together. You want it collaborative because you want input from users, executives, your Salesforce admin, consultants, etc. Sure, most of them might rarely add to the wiki, but the very idea that they can and should contribute is empowering. And other than the fact of it being online and being collaboratively edited, there’s nothing special about “a wiki.” It doesn’t have to be created using special software. (Even that aforementioned pile of Google docs could probably be considered a wiki.) Don't think Wikipedia, think whiteboard.
And guess what? If you’ve got Google docs then you have Google Sites. Both are a standard part of Google Suite (now called Google Workspace), which is free for nonprofits. (That’s my kind of pricing!) Know what you can do with a Google Site? That’s right: You can create a wiki!
In under a minute you can create a new Site with a simple template and just start adding pages to it. Sites is easy and fast to use, and it even does a pretty good job making a menu as you add new pages. I see no need for anything more “wiki-ish” than that.
If your organization doesn’t have Google Suite…I’m sorry.
It’s not that I have a particular love for Google. (I don’t.) But in my experience if you don’t have Google, you probably have Microsoft 365, and that makes me sad. Again, nothing against Microsoft per se, it’s just that apparently starting any kind of site/intranet/wiki seems to be much too difficult on Sharepoint. Once the Sharepoint site exists, it’s fine.
I suppose there are some of you reading this that have access to neither Sites nor Sharepoint. But ask around a bit and you might find that there is some kind of website building tool already available within your IT services. Don’t be picky. Just two criteria matter: 1. Is it free? 2. Can I easily create multiple pages (with simple text and images)?
This week we’re stopping here: You’ve identified that your organization has some kind of tool that will allow you to create a basic website with multiple pages. Your homework is pretty simple:
Create your site. (Name it something like “[my organization]’s Salesforce wiki.”)
Create your first page. Give it a title and some placeholder text.
Set the sharing/visibility settings to at least allow anyone from your organization to see the site with a link. Open to anyone with the link is OK, in my opinion.
Extra Credit: Create one additional page of your wiki so you can see how the tool creates a menu.