Getting Answers: Representing Priority and Urgency to the Tech Writer

Subject: Getting Answers: Representing Priority and Urgency to the Tech Writer
From: "techwrl-list-only -at- doitall -dot- com" <techwrl-list-only -at- doitall -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2003 11:10:07 -0400


Have any of you made semi-formal systems for representing a question's
importance and urgency to YOU (the tech writer) with subject matter experts?

My main contact for one of my clients is now overwhelmed with work and is
getting behind with my questions. Not only does he know lots of stuff, but
he performs triage on the questions: so he knows which ones need to get
escalated to engineering, the support team, etc.

He requested a system to let him know better which things need to be handled
*today* versus maybe collected once a week or so and figured out, or maybe
even deferred longer.

Upon reflection of our travel/commute/telecommute schedule (we each have 2
or 3 offices and he is off the Net frequently), we determined that email was
the only way that was going to work for us. I proposed an email subject line
prefix system.

Have any of YOU created such a system? If so, I'd like to hear the details,
and find out what worked and what didn't. Thanks!

Here was my first try, based on my time there so far. Again, these are
subject line prefixes for emails...

I'm waiting for answers before I can proceed with something that is
best handled now. It might be because I need to make decisions based
on the response. Please escalate if appropriate.

I'm waiting for answers before I can proceed with something of average
importance and average dependencies, but if it takes a few days it's
not a big deal. Please escalate if appropriate.

The response will speed up my writing work if you could answer it
within a day. However, if it takes longer than that or requires
non-trivial work, don't spend time on it because I'll have to
figure it out on my own by the time you're done.

If you *already* know the answer or can find it quickly, having the
answer would be great! However, if you don't know the answer quickly,
it's OK to defer/collect this until the appropriate time to find out.

So, a medium importance & medium urgency email subject line might look like:

Subject: MED: Is the Foo class still supported? Or yank it from the docs?

In all cases, a quick response letting me know the status is helpful. Like
"Hmm. I dunno. I'll ask Joe later." or "I pretty sure that's right. I can't
confirm for sure right now."


-- JX


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