Advice for writing a user manual/documenting business process

Subject: Advice for writing a user manual/documenting business process
From: "Kelly Smith" <ksmith -at- triton -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 11:23:26 -0400 (EDT)

Hi all,

I have been asked to write a user manual and document the business
processes associated with receiving and tracking packages at a
pharmaceutical company. They receive everything from ordinary packages, to
specimens, to live animals. This system is not used to receive any active
ingredients or pharmaceuticals, so there are no GMP or FDA worries that I am
aware of.

I have a list of managers and business users I can get information from,
and Ihave a project manager who is going to oversee the project and my
interaction with these people. They are all strangers to me, but they have
asked for this book, so I assume they will be willing to help. They are in
various locations, but all are local to me, so I can meet with them in
person ifI have to.

They want me to document the day-to-day processes that a new user would
have to go through to receive or deliver packages. The software itself is
already documented, and it tells them what they can do, but it does not tell
them when they may want to use a particular function, or why. That?s my job.

In discussing this, I was also told that no one has ever documented the
business process, so I believe I?ll have to do that (if only for my own
sanityand to keep a handle on how they do things at all the different
locations). Theyuse varying hardware depending on where they are and what they are
receiving and from whom they are receiving it etc.

I am the only technical writer here, but my usual job is software quality
assurance. I?ll have to do both the writing, and my normal SQA duties
simultaneously, so I can?t devote full time to the writing (although that
wouldbe way more interesting than documenting defects!)

Does anyone have any advice on how to go about this? Over the past few
months I know I?ve read some excellent posts by John Posada. I wish I had
kept them, but since this it not part of my normal job function, it never
occurred to me that I?d need them. ;)

Right now I am at the stage of figuring out exactly what they want and need,
and trying to put together an estimate for the Project Manager so that she
canwrite the statement of work.

I would appreciate any suggestions for ways to estimate this. At this
point I?mnot even sure how many different user roles there are, or how many different
procedures there may be to document. Is there anything else I need to

I?ll be using Visio to draw any process flows and writing the content in
Word.The client has assured me that their internal print shop will produce the
finalbooks, so I will also have to work with them on layout and other things that
I?m not normally concerned with.

I?m really looking forward to this, but if anyone has advice on how to
estimatemy time, how best to get the users to tell me their existing processes (in
sufficient detail to describe them), and some tips on putting together a
book ofthis nature*, I would really appreciate it. Please copy me, as I am on
* We?re picturing something spiral bound with sturdy pages (maybe laminated)
that will hold up to a warehouse or mailroom environment with lots of daily
use. Any other advice on the format?

Kelly Smith

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