TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: software life cycle From:"Dick Margulis" <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Mon, 12 Feb 2001 14:04:55 -0500
Ardene Whittlesey wrote:
>I'm a new subscriber to techwr-l and have some
>questions about the software development life cycle.
>I've done mostly hardware documentation, but am
>looking to expand my skill set.
>I've already had one contract where I was initially
>brought in to write training doc, and then was asked
>to do process documentation as well as work on
>functional and technical specifications during/after
>development. Needless to say, I moved on to find
>something a bit more manageable.
>But I'm curious - what's the difference between
>functional and technical specs? I assume functional
>describes what a piece of software will do and
>technical describes how it's done. If that's correct,
>does the functional spec come before coding and the
>technical spec after? The functional spec come from
>the users (and management) and the tech spec from
Different organizations define these differently, but you have gist of it. In reality, the functional spec may or may not have any actual user (or potential user) input. It may be created out of whole cloth by some marketing genius who is sure he (almost always _he_)knows what the market wants.
The technical spec (design spec) ought to be written before coding begins. It takes the _what_ from the functional spec and explicates the _how_ in terms of the design. Depending on the organization and the type of product, it may include mockups of the user interface to indicate appearance and location of visible elements. It may include equations, formulae, or algorithmic procedures that need to be coded. It may include specifications for database tables or relationships between database tables, etc. It may be constructed by design engineers or by the same people who will subsequently write the code. However, if the technical spec is done right, with careful review cycles, etc., the coding itself should go quickly and require a minimal amount of decision-making on the part of the person doing it.
In many organizations, of course, life does not proceed according to this grand plan and the technical specification is written, as you suggest, after the coding is done. In this case it is written primarily to satisfy a bureaucratic need for a document in hand.
>Also, are use cases the same as test cases?
>And do most companies really follow a formal life
>cycle process? My experience in hardware is that a
>customer wants something, sales & marketing promises
>it to them, and engineering has to come up with
>something - fast! And the writer is at the end of the
>loop, trying to document as it goes out the door.
Your experience applies in most companies but not in the best companies ;-)
Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**WEST COAST LOCATIONS** San Jose (Mar 1-2), San Francisco (Apr 16-17) http://www.weisner.com/training/dreamweaver_help.htm or 800-646-9989.
Sponsored by ForeFront, Inc., maker of ForeHelp Help authoring tools
for print, WinHelp, HTML Help, JavaHelp, and cross-platform InterHelp
See www.forehelp.com for more information and free evaluation downloads
You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/ for more resources and info.