Re: Should I run or is this project doable?...

Subject: Re: Should I run or is this project doable?...
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 13:46:12 -0800

Johanna wrote:

> 3) As I mentioned before, there is nothing written
> down spec wise and additionally, the developer is
> given to tweaking the "interfaces" here and there. You
> know what I mean, adding a field here, deleting a
> field there, etc, etc, etc.

This isn't unusual. I've documented more than one project in which
an interface would change between the time I took a screen shot and
positioned it in the document. It's annoying, but it happens.

> 4) The timeframe is... well, just plain stupid as
> anyone can figure out.

That depends on how large the project is. If you're being asked to
document an entire office suite, or a system with a couple of dozen
apps, the deadline's stupid. If it's a single piece of software, the
deadline is possible.

> Well, much here is ridiculous but I could use some
> work right now. I am considering this: going to the
> client, telling him the situation (more
> diplomatically) and that with what little time we have
> to work with, he needs to come up with a very specific
> lists of the tasks he wants me to document. I am
> figuring that if he tells me what he wants the users
> to be able to do, I will be able to document the
> corresponding procedures. I am thinking that a bare
> bones "work in progress" would be possible as they are
> planning to release version 2 of their software within
> a couple of months of their initial release.

This project sounds like what I refer to as documentation triage.
Just as medical triage requires an adjustment in thinking for a
doctor, this project requires an adjustment in your thinking.

If the deadline is firm (and, frankly, I'd be surprised if there was
no slippage that would give you wriggle room), then you have to get
the idea of perfection out of your head. What you produce isn't
likely to be the best documentation that you've ever done - only the
best that you can do in the circumstances. If you scale back any
ideas of perfectionism, you can still produce serviceable
documentation so that the product can get out the door.

If you decide to take this job, I suggest that you need to be
completely honest with the client. Tell them that the schedule is
tight, and make clear that, for you to meet your deadlines, they
have to meet theirs. This sort of honesty always makes for good
working relationships, but, in this case, you also want to protect
yourself against inflated expectations, too.

If you take this contract, good luck. Triage is exhausting, but it
can be satisfying to produce decent work under the increased
pressure of a tight deadline (especially afterwards, when you can
sit back and brag about it - and it does look extremely good on a
resume, believe me).

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend you,
And the spirits that stand by the naked man
In the book of moons defend you."
- Steeleye Span, "The Beggar"


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