RE: When document writing does not have or follow guidelines...

Subject: RE: When document writing does not have or follow guidelines...
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 10:39:28 -0500

Having been in startups for a long time now, I have had to deal with this
same problem. My recommendations are:

1. Focus on the content first - standardize terminology, etc.

2. Work on the organization second - where and how things are stored,
templates, etc.

What you provide is much more important than how you provide it. People will
care a lot more about the words and content than they do on the
presentation. When time permits, make up templates and apply them first to
all new documents, then retroactively to the old ones. After that,
standardize names for things and allocate them to folders. Make sure you
apply 'read-only' status to old documents (may prohibit others from changing
them retroactively).

My 2¢,


John Garison
Documentation Manager
150 Baker Avenue Extension
Concord, MA 01742

Voice: 978-402-2907
Fax: 978-318-9376

-----Original Message-----
From: Ellen Vanrenen [mailto:ellen -dot- vanrenen -at- clear-technology -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2001 4:46 PM
Subject: When document writing does not have or follow guidelines...

I am in a situation in a start-up company where events are moving at
lightning speed.
The issue that has arisen is that we brought together an implementation team
with a dynamic vice-president. He moves very quickly, and his team had to
write a number of important documents fast. That set of documentation is at
the moment being taught to a second implementation team (we are in the
process of forming even more teams). This second implementation team is also
being provided with a CD that contains the documentation set for them to
follow as templates.
Now, none of these documents contain consistently-used and uniform fonts,
styles, or formatting. For example, fonts differ from document to document
and within documents. There are no naming conventions in place yet, I'm
embarrassed to say, and no formalized directory structure. You can imagine
how difficult it was for me to find the documents requested in training
armed with only their purpose.
The second implementation team is being given a SOW, among other documents.
I have no SOW template. I DO have reference and user guide templates with
defined styles and so forth.
Now I need to play catch up and do it fast. I brought all this to the
attention of my manager. She told me that I can't point out the problems
without offering solutions.
Therefore, I am asking all you experienced (and apparently well-paid)
professionals how you would go about managing this situation. What would you
do first (point out that we do have defined styles they could limit
themselves to)? In what order would you tackle the obvious projects you need
to work on:
1. naming conventions
2. formalized directory structure
3. templates
I think I also need read Managing Your Documentation Projects by Joann
Hackos, but I don't have time!
There's a lot of work to do here, and I need to do it smart.
Advice, please.

Ellen Vanrenen
Technical Product Documentation Specialist
Clear Technology, Inc.

telephone: 303-583-4170 (direct line)
email: ellen -dot- vanrenen -at- clear-technology -dot- com

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