RE: Integrating Tech Pubs more closely with Engineering

Subject: RE: Integrating Tech Pubs more closely with Engineering
From: "Beilby, Margaret" <MBeilby -at- ebuilt -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 11:38:01 -0800

<<Does anyone have any suggestions for
breaking down departmental barriers that inhibit the level of cooperation
essential to produce solid technical documentation.>>

My company does several things that have worked remarkably well. However, my
sense is that they may require buy-in from top-level management. In our
case, we have the support of the CEO, the COO, the CFO, and all the Sr.
Partners.

1. Everything that goes to a client (letter, proposal, specification,
marketing material, Web site, etc.) must go through a writer for review,
editing, and rewrite.

2. Writers are involved in projects from the very beginning. When a project
starts, a writer is assigned immediately and, when possible, for the
duration of the project. We are considered valuable team members. We take
part in design meetings and architectural reviews; we provide feedback on
GUI issues; we work directly with the clients to determine what kind of
documentation they need; we take part in and conduct usability tests; we
work with the product and, just like QA, submit any bugs for correction. I,
personally, also work with one of the Information Architects in defining the
information flow for the systems.

3. The writers are scattered throughout the company. In other words, there
isn't a single physical area where all the tech writers "live." For example,
my boss and another proposal writer are upstairs with the sales/marketing
people they work most closely with. I, OTOH, am downstairs right in the
middle of the developers I work with.

4. Every project is assigned to a "WAR" room or a specific area where
everyone works together (we physically move our individual systems into the
area). It really makes a lot of difference when you are interacting with the
engineers on the project on a day-to-day basis and discuss things besides
the project. I think this, more than anything, has contributed to the
respect and consideration the developers have for the writers.

The final thing (and it's probably cultural), is that the company has been
extremely careful in hiring people who can work well with others and who are
"experts" in their fields. For the most part, these are people who have been
very successful in their areas of expertise and who are not threatened by
new ideas. I've been here two years and, in that time, have seen very few
"ego episodes." As a general rule, people have a tremendous amount of
respect for each other and the skills each person brings to the project.

I hope this helps,

Margaret




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