Ratio of Developers to Technical Writers/Authors.

Subject: Ratio of Developers to Technical Writers/Authors.
From: "Gill, Harold B. CONT (NALC SSG)" <gillhb -at- ssg -dot- navy -dot- mil>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 14:41:40 -0500


> I'm trying to research the 'standard' ratios between developers and
> technical authors. Does anyone have any figures they can provide
> please?

Hi all,
At my last assignment with Web500 in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was hired in
October 2000 as the first Technical Writer of what was envisioned to be an
eventual team of 60 to 100. Truth be known we only grew from 13 to about 30
over the next two years and have since shrunken back down to about 20.

The vision that our Chief Development Officer at the time had was to have
teams of two developers, one junior developer and one technical writer. He
envisioned three of four such teams...one working on the core, and two or
three working on the interface of the software.

The way it worked out was that we ended up getting one other writer and we
worked in conjunction. By choosing to single source our print and
context-sensitive online help using FrameMaker 5.5/WebWorks Publisher, we
were able to make an adaptive documentation suite that was easy to update on
the fly since we were maintaining the source on our own servers.

With the economic downturn and stiff competition, this fit well with our
cash conservative mode. When it came time to downsize, it was clear that
what we had built could be maintained by one writer supporting the 7
surviving developers.

So I was laid off last July...perhaps a victim of my own efficiency.

In any event...our feeling was and still is that one writer can be kept
extremely busy by 7 developers even with the best of technology and best
practices applied in using that technology. Just so you know that this is
not just my opinion, our context-sensitive Online Help for Web500 CMS
Professional 3.1 won an Award of Merit in this past December's Online Help
Competition hosted by the French Chapter of the Society for Technical
Communication.
(If anyone would like to take a look at it, you can see it at the following
link:
http://cmshelp.web500.com/3.10/CMS_User_Guide/wwhelp/wwhimpl/js/html/wwhelp.
htm?href=Media5.html#wp1191883)

The ideal would be to have a ratio of one writer to three developers. This
is rarely to ever achieved in the real world, however from what I have seen
so far.

I am now a part of a team of 11 writers/editors working for a project that
includes many different customers. I don't have a head count of the
developers that we support but believe it to be in excess of 50 or 60 at
four different locations around the country.

Best regards,

Hal Gill
Senior Technical Writer/Editor
DigitalNet Government Solutions
Naval Ammunition Logistics Center IT Software Support Group - Yorktown
1351 Spring Road
Yorktown, Virginia 23691
(757)-847-8154 (office)
(757)-847-8080 (fax)

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