RE: Estimating Online Help Schedule

Subject: RE: Estimating Online Help Schedule
From: "Murrell, Thomas" <TMurrell -at- alldata -dot- net>
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 08:03:02 -0500

Emmy Aricioglu has been assigned her first online help project and wants to
know how to estimate it properly.

Jeanne A. E. DeVoto proposes the following approach:
I usually create a development schedule whose stages are conditioned
product milestones. For example, a schedule might go something like

- Release of first draft: 2 weeks after software goes alpha
Additional features added after the software goes alpha WILL cause
documentation to slip.
- First review meeting: 1 week after release of first draft
- Release of second draft: 3 weeks after user-interface freeze
Changes to the user interface after the user-interface freeze date
cause the documentation to slip.
- Final review meeting: 1 week after release of second draft
ALL comments from development and marketing are due at the final
meeting. Comments received after the date of the final review will
not be
incorporated. Any changes to the documentation content that are
after this date WILL cause the documentation to slip.

That's a fine approach. I would only add one possible variation. Instead
of saying that the documentation will slip (I hate to slip schedules,
especially since I've yet to work someplace where they'll hold a product or
feature release until the documentation is done, no matter how much the
software changes along the way--and it usually does), I prefer to suggest
that the additional features or changes will not be ready by the original

Yes, there is a danger here that they'll release the UI with erroneous
documentation in the Online Help, and I would argue against that approach.
But I would argue it from the standpoint of releasing the product as a
whole, with the online help being a key component. I think it's important
to deliver what you promised--and a little bit more as Jeanne also pointed
out in her response--but not to let documentation be seen as a bottleneck.
If release is so time critical, and if changes are being made at the last
minute (which they always seem to be), you'll have a chance to update the
online help in the patch release that will go out shortly after the release
date, because the software will probably still be buggy.

Tom Murrell

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