RE: What then is the SME/TW functional relationship?

Subject: RE: What then is the SME/TW functional relationship?
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 11:26:56 -0500

At my company, the line between SMEs and writers is even more blurry. As
writers, we are equal participants in cross-functional development teams,
and as a result we are as much responsible for the product as the
programmers. We all sit in design meetings together. We discuss the arcane
behavior of our software application. We talk about what the user's
experience will be. We discuss, argue, and ultimately make a decision on how
things will work.

At that point, the programmers go away and write code (well, once they do a
technical specification). As writers, we go away and write documents (after
updating the functional specifications). The QA people on the team go away
and write QA test scripts. After a few weeks (with intervening meetings if
and discrepancies or glitches are discovered) we pull it all together and
see how we have done. The code gets debugged, the writers use the code to
verify that things look and operate the way they expected them to and update
their documentation accordingly, and the QA people perform rigorous testing
to ensure that both code and documents are correct.

Who in this case is the SME? It's ALL of us. Collectively we ensure that
things are designed, developed, documented and tested.

And we all share responsibility for the results.

My 2¢,


-----Original Message-----
From: Marguerite Krupp [mailto:mkrupp -at- cisco -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2002 10:28 AM
Subject: RE: What then is the SME/TW functional relationship?

Because I work in software, the stuff I write about is often only
thinly-defined and partially implemented when I begin writing about it. I
get a copy of the software or a profile on the system running the software
while it's still in development. I try to do things with it. I crash the
system, just like the engineers do<G>. I try to figure things out, based on
my experience with other systems and on my reading of whatever I can get my
eyeballs on that appears relevant. I talk to and listen to a lot of
engineers, especially those in QA. We use whiteboards a lot. I constantly
refine the docs, just as the engineers/implementors refine the software.

Because the software is changing as I write about it, I must rely on SMEs to
verify that the docs I write accurately reflect the state of the product at
the time we ship Beta and final products. This doesn't mean that I don't
know the product. Rather, it's a way of making sure that we catch, or at
least minimize, any discrepancies between what I've written and what they
understand about the product.

The engineers I'm working with are great! They review quickly, communicate
well, and they're very focused. I suspect that this is an artifact of the
development process in which writers participate as part of the team. If I
were to wait until the product is "frozen" before starting the docs, the
process wouldn't work nearly so well.

Just my $0.02,

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