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October 12 2010 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0, Infographics

The Documentation Maturity Model (infographic)

“How does our online documentation site stack up against other organizations?”

The Documentation Maturity Model (DMM) categorizes he six types of documentation sites as we have observed through our research.  We recommend you use this guide as a resource to decide which level bests suits your company’s situation and examples on what it might look like. 

Documentation Maturity Model


As companies approach Level 4 (Strategic) significant and observable benefits begin to accrue.  For instance, Aaron Fulkerson has written about how documentation sites become a company’s number one lead generation source.  Moreover, the top 9 documentation sites (Wikipedia is a non-profit) cite cost reduction as a primary benefit.  

The Online Documentation Maturity Model Matrix



Site Characteristics

Vendors that Offer Solution

Level 1:

Ad Hoc




  • Questions and Answers
  • FAQ’s
Telligent, GetSatisfaction, Lithium, MindTouch
2. Basic

SUN Microsystems


  • PDF Files posted online
Adobe, AuthorIt
3. Organized

Apache Project


  • Static HTML
  • Could be localized by country
  • Has an organized table of contents
Adobe, Authorit, Confluence, Telligent
4. Strategic

Most of the Top 10 Documentation sites

  • Single Sourcing
  • Collaborative authoring including community content
  • Search that is contextual and adapts over time
  • Documentation Content Analytics
MindTouch, Telligent, Confluence (some aspects)
5. Social

Autodesk (Nov 2010)

Microsoft TechNet (some aspects)

  • Combines elements of Level 4 with community
  • Learning communities that include documentation and Knowledge Bases
MindTouch, Telligent, Lithium (some aspects)
6. Intelligent

SixthSense (mobile example)

  • Marked by content that is personalized for each user
  • Personalized search
  • Location based mobile documentation
MindTouch (some aspects), AuthorIt (some aspects)



Why Six Levels?

There are six levels of maturity for the DMM.  Why?  After observing literally thousands of sites, we were able to categorize them by type.  Some do bleed over into other levels, but the majority fell into one of the six levels. 

The goal of the DMM is to give you the main characteristics of the others levels so that you can observe how other successful organizations are creating more value from their sites.  The six levels of the DMM will provide you with a means to assess your current documentation site and to learn how others are taking it to the next level. 

The matrix above is in simplified form.  I plan to publish a more comprehensive guide after completing additional research on the levels. 

Decision Maker Takeaways

There are a surprising amount of organizations that either don’t believe or don’t realize the value in their documentation sites.  Historically viewed as a necessary evil, documentation sites have recently become increasingly strategic because of the Enterprise 2.0 tools and solutions in the market. 

If you’re not at level 4 or above, you are sub-optimized.  Companies at level 4 and higher report greater revenues, greater competitiveness (because prospects are using documentation for due diligence)  less customer service call volume from their documentation sites.  

Documentation is an objective view of your product or solution.  Most people want to skip the marketing jargon and engage your organization to find the solution to their problem.  Whether it’s through engaging a community member (level 5) or discovering the answer through the community driven  knowledge base (Level 4), product documentation sites are emerging as the most important section of corporate websites.

Ignore them and you’re ignoring a huge opportunity to engage your customers and prospective customers.  


P.S. Thanks to Rahel Bailie for inspiring this research

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