Technical Documentation solutions?

Subject: Technical Documentation solutions?
From: GFD1CEM -at- ups -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 10:42:08 -0600

Hello all!

I have been asked to propose a technical writing workflow for my team here
at UPS as a prototype for an enterprise TW approach.

I am interested in your opinions as to what workflows, techniques and
tools a really modern TW uses. By really modern I mean modular, topical
and single-sourced, distributed via a portal, etc.

My folks are systems management types, so they create architectural
diagrams, scripts, executables, PowerPoint presentations and so forth - as
well as task guides, user guides, etc.

I want our documentation to be highly granular, maybe using WWP and FM7,
maybe Microstuff, (UPS as far as I can tell isn't using FM, so it could be
a tough sell - if anyone has a Sharepoint Team Services/Portal
Server/Content Manager solution I really need to talk to you!) I will use
whatever will allow us to keep documentation accurate - for example, I
don't want a traditional User Guide with a table of content and a bunch of
images pasted in a Word doc with text to walk the user through each screen
- these never stay up to date.

Rather, I want to keep each screen shot as an artifact, and the text to
explain its use as another...or maybe each table of content item could be
a separate topical file - (XML?) and then build the document at time of
need, in real time, or do a document build each morning, so all that an
analyst or engineer who makes a change has to do is go to that specific
artifact and update it - any strategy that will make it easy and
attractive for the individual to update their documentation whenever they
change something.

Like most enterprises - we have a web-based repository with change
control, but it's such a pain to use that no one does.

We currently use Word and Visio for most everything - and every doc is
outdated or wrong in some way. I suppose I am striving for the MS Word
Master/Subdoc approach that never quite worked out.

Further, Does anyone have experience building documents from system
reports? We us Tivoli for Endpoint reporting, but the engineers are
manually creating matrix tables to show what monitors are running for what
apps - I want to read the Tivoli and other reports in real-time and build
that doc instead of writing and trying to maintain it - has anyone done
anything like this?

Any suggestions?

Ed Manley
Methods Analyst
UPS, Louisville, Ky.
cmanley -at- ups -dot- com

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