Many software developers would prefer writing code rather than creating a solution design document. But approaching custom development without it can lead to poor results. Although It might be a chore, software developers should know how to apply solution design principles in practice and create relevant software design documents. Before we go into the details on what you should include in your solution design document template and the best practices to write it, let’s go over the following questions: What is solution design, what purpose does it serve, and why do you need a solution designing?
- What is a Solution Design Document
- What Should a Solution Document Contain
- Why Do You Need a Solution Design
- How Do You Write a Solution Design Document
- Best Practices
- Solution Design in Healthcare
What is a Solution Design Document
Let’s take a look at some key concepts that help define a solution design document.
A solution design document (SD):
- serves as a clear and precise technical document
- is written by a solution architect in the design stage of the software development lifecycle (SDLC)
- documents a relevant end-to-end solution necessary for a particular project
- brings clarity to stakeholders regarding ways that their business requirements will be satisfied
The main topics in solution designs are:
- Software, including licenses, code changes and pseudo-code
- Hardware requirements
- Specific functional and non-functional requirements
- Configuration data
Ultimately, a solution design document involves multiple themes like architecture, design, web and mobile development, testing and project challenges.
What is the purpose of solution designing?
A solution design document provides documentation of:
- each significant aspect of your solution design
- the main technical project topics, including risks and challenges
- specific implementation details that can help developers and testers conduct their work
Desired results of the solution design
The expected outcomes from a solution design document are:
Stakeholder buy-in. The primary goal is to make internal and external stakeholders confident with the design. To maximize efficient collaboration, you need your stakeholders to buy-in. To do that, you need to make sure that you understand all the business needs.
Clarity regarding changes. You need to include details about what source code changes you expect from developers, and you should use pseudo-code if necessary.
When you document changes appropriately, it ensures that:
- the developers avoid dealing with design on the fly
- programmers and testers can make precise estimations of the necessary effort
- project managers can build detailed implementation plans
Impact analysis. If your solution is large, complex, or mission-critical, you should conduct impact analysis. That allows you to mitigate the risk.
A solution design document should address risk by conducting an impact analysis regarding the anticipated code changes. With impact analysis, you can evaluate and mitigate all possible risks early on in the project.
Benefits of a solution design document
А good solution design document provides you with:
- the goals and purpose of the solution
- an outline of automatic processes required to deliver the solution
- a description of how the project pieces work together on a particular area of the solution
- the division of work that you will later integrate into one completed solution (this approach is crucial for multi-developer projects)
What Should a Solution Document Contain?
A typical solution design document should include the following parts:
- Title. Give your solution design document a title.
- Introduction. Here you should provide a brief overview of the document.
- System overview. Describe your software system and its functions.
- Design considerations. Analyze the issues that you need to address before creating solution designs.
- Assumptions and dependencies. Provide a description of assumptions that may be wrong or dependencies regarding other critical things.
- General constraints. Describe the limitations that can influence the solution design.
- Goals and guidelines. Analyze them regarding solution development.
- Development methods. Represent the solution design method that you will use.
- Architectural strategies. In this section, you need to describe strategies you will apply that will impact the system.
- Solution architecture. Here you should provide an in-depth analysis of how you partitioned the system’s functionalities and responsibilities and assign them to subsystems or other elements.
- Policies and tactics. Describe all solution design policies, along with tactics that will help you avoid making significant architectural implications that might impact the organization of the whole system and related high-level structures.
- Detailed system design. The majority of components analyzed in this solution architecture section need to be discussed in the document, and you should also describe other lower-level elements and subelements.
- Glossary is a list of defined terms and concepts that you use throughout a solution design document.
Why Do You Need a Solution Design Document?
A solution design document is a way to keep everyone involved in the creative process in the loop while developing a product. Companies use solution designs to coordinate the efforts of large teams, providing them with stable reference points by describing each part of the software and how it should operate. A solution design document ensures that the solution is created to meet the needs of the business and matches the terms agreed upon before the inception of the product.
Apart from allowing others to understand your system and providing necessary documentation for future projects, solution designing prompts you to think through the whole system infrastructure.
How Do You Write a Solution Design Document?
Designing an appropriate solution for the client allows you to satisfy the customer’s requirements. A solution design document helps you understand the influence all these requirements have on one another when brought together.
When writing the design document, you should consider the following requirements:
- Business requirements
Apart from design details, your SD must cover a mutually accepted set of customer requirements.
- Hardware and infrastructure
Make sure that you have included a sufficient amount of details regarding the hardware setup. Cover all the environments, from development to final production.
Scalability, extensibility and modularity are crucial for your solution to last for a long time and maximize your return on investment (ROI). Ensure that your new design will not affect the system with different constraints.
- Industry best practices
Provide the audience with some information regarding various processes you want to follow for developing. You can mention critical steps, including code review or test plan preparations, and let the customer know how to contact you and ask for support.
- Security and compliance
Sometimes it is possible to have compliance updates that are so huge that they require separate projects. If you work in the healthcare industry, make sure you have included the necessary security and compliance details in your analysis.
We have already talked about the central parts of a solution design document, its importance, and how to write it. Now it’s time to review some industry best practices and guidelines to follow when creating technical documentation.
Here we provide a list of six pillars that you can use as guidance through the writing process of your solution design document template.
1. Define your audience
Defining the audience of a solution design document is considered the most critical step in its creation, and it drives the contents of the entire document. In the healthcare industry, the relevant audience can include medical staff, technical staff, project managers, etc. An appropriate technical document must address all segments of its audience using their language.
How to achieve it
Provide your document with the following sections:
- Begin with the Overview section that allows the audience to decide whether the particular document will be valuable for them.
- A Glossary of terms and acronyms can be helpful when the readers are new or have a mixed set of skills.
- Appendices protect the general audience from irrelevant details which may not correspond to their requirements.
- Table of References helps create a baseline to build the existing solution design. In addition, that will trigger the appropriate change management process when the specifications become modified.
2. Outline the project scope
A solution design document should serve as a universal tool for the solution design that covers the system from front to end. However, the most significant feature of solution designs is the ability to specify what changes are in scope.
At the same time, the requirements involved in the business requirements document (BRD) and sections in the solution design document should have one-to-one mapping to ensure you have covered all the specifications.
How to achieve it
- Create relevant mock-ups for new screens
- Involve the out-of-scope section
- Conduct impact analysis and involve each possible implication
- Mention each decision that was made during the solution design clearly
3. Ensure enough quality
Software development is a complex business, so the appropriate solution design document should serve as a tool for simplifying complexity where possible.
How to achieve it
Use the following questions to determine whether your solution design is apparent or not.
- What assumptions have you made during the design process?
- What critical decisions did you make, and how did you reach those conclusions?
- Have there been any constraints on the product’s further evolution provoked by design?
- Do you have enough data to assimilate more complicated ideas?
- Can you define the prerequisites for all tasks?
- Do you still have any open questions?
- What do you expect from internal and external stakeholders?
- Can the proposed changes impact or modify other functionalities such as features, data or user experiences?
- How might such changes affect other teams, including support and operations?
- Are you able to carry out your project smoothly if your designer will be on vacation for a few weeks?
- Did you tabulate the risks regarding budget, timeline and service availability, and elaborate mitigations properly?
4. Stay precise
There is no need to provide your solution design document with ambiguous statements that readers can interpret in various ways. Staying precise in your words allows the audience to understand that you are a master of your craft. With this particular approach, you can build the level of confidence necessary for successful projects. Thus, staying accurate is not enough; it is also essential to be precise.
How to achieve it
Here we created a list of three steps that will help your documents be clear:
- Use concise terms.
- Avoid using words such as probably, maybe and other uncertain expressions.
- Provide answers to all questions. There must be no open ones that have not been addressed.
If you have a definite position on all issues, you can eliminate the escape routes that can be used by team members or customers when something goes wrong. That ensures a 100% commitment from all involved.
5. Comprehensive, not tedious
Your solution design document must provide a sufficient amount of detail, so the team would not need to look at other project documents. Also, do not replicate general information that readers can obtain from other sources. Solution design does not replace the functional specifications of constituent products.
How to achieve it
An efficient test for comprehensiveness is the following: if the author of the design document leaves on a two-week vacation, will work continue smoothly while he or she is out?
6. Make it easy to read
Your responsibility is to create a solution design document that will be easy to read.
How to achieve it
This list of recommendations can help your audience assemble the document smoothly.
- Structure paragraphs and make short sentences that help your readers get through the document quickly.
- Avoid typos and sentence fragments.
- Double-check grammar.
- Apply simple terminology that does not dumb down the content.
- Add necessary visualizations since they allow readers to digest the content.
- Provide all external references in a relevant table and place them at the beginning of your document.
- Create a glossary for acronyms.
Solution Design in Healthcare
There is a connection between inclusivity and digitization in the healthcare industry. It is difficult for healthcare organizations to improve the patient experience and provide underserved groups with better health outcomes if they cannot transform the way their businesses perform. It is critical to understand that implementing solution design is not enough since you should consider both online and offline channels at all touchpoints.
Before creating a solution design document, you must determine the pain points and the areas where the healthcare provider needs tools to help their patients. Thus, the front-end (what patients see and experience), back-end (what takes place behind the scenes for delivering this experience), support processes, and the existing offline and online channels should be represented in an efficient solution design.
To build an appropriate solution design document, healthcare organizations need to:
- Begin by learning customer requirements and generating problem statements depending on them. Then they should consider the potential problems to tackle and identify things that can have the biggest influence on the patient experience.
- Create a relevant vision around satisfying customer requirements. Becoming patient-oriented is the key to building efficient custom solutions on both the front-end and back-end.
- Involve patients, clinicians and technical or support staff in the solution design process. That helps provide tangible outcomes, deliver better experiences, or even reshape organizations to address customer pain points.