RE: Do you permit SMEs to revise your drafts?

Subject: RE: Do you permit SMEs to revise your drafts?
From: "Lippincott, Rick" <Rick -dot- Lippincott -at- flir -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2003 12:00:11 -0500

Patricia Blount asked:

>I've done a quick archive search and came up empty-handed, so here
>In general, do you permit your SMEs to revise your drafts directly, or
>report their concerns to you?

Do you mean that the SME's go directly to your source file, review that,
and directly incorporate any changes without going through you? I've
never seen that done. It sounds like a recipe for disaster. The very
least problem I can think of is that if they're not fully functional
with the tool (quite easy to imagine as you're using Frame), there's a
chance that they could accidentally muck up the formatting. Or worse.

And there are always the awkward possibilities like the SME reviews one
section, deletes a figure or a table, and thinks the job is done. Too
bad that your doc was riddled with cross-references to that table, and
as it's not going back to you no one knows to fix all the broken

And don't even get me started on the possibilities if you're using
conditional text.

>If you prefer that they report any concerns or corrections to you, how
>you collect the feedback?

The simple answer to that is "Whatever method seems to work best at
ensuring they actually -do- get comments back to you."

>So far, I've seen several different approaches
>to this problem, including: marking up a hard copy of the draft, typing
>email or other report that lists the page number and correction to all
>problems located, and finally, using a revisions or track changes
>of the tool in use.

These are all workable solutions.

>We're using FrameMaker 6.0 and converting to PDF (because only the TW
>has FrameMaker) and the SMEs are up in arms about having to do so much
>extra work.

I'm not sure that I understand the problem here. One way or another,
they have to review the documentation. Is the issue that they think it's
harder to mark the changes on the PDF than it is to make the changes
directly to the file?

If the SME's believe that it would be easier for them to make the
changes directly to your source files, then you might want to point out
that their workload would be easier if your company applies the same
theory to software testing and simply has the QA folks make necessary
changes in the files instead of filing bugs. (Hey, that's -one- way to
reduce the bug count.)

> At the moment, we leave the reporting decision up to them. I'm
>hoping to determine a way to decrease their workload while retaining
>document control.

As one other person has already suggested, your best answer might be to
allow some flexibility if it doesn't reach a point of interfering with
your own workload. The most important thing is getting the comments
back, and I'd be inclined to go with whatever works so long as it
doesn't drive you crazy.

If they absolutely positively insist on making changes to Frame files,
then I would suggest something like the following: when your draft is
ready for review, keep the master (sorry) copy on your system or in a
read-only version in an obscure place on a network. Make sure that
they're working in copies. One way would be to e-mail the files to them.
If the SME's want to be able to review each other's comments, then put a
duplicate set of files in a central location, and let them have at it.
But whatever they do, it's with the understanding that you're going to
take their changes to the Frame files, and then -you- are going to
incorporate those changes into the master files. From their point of
view, this is identical to what they would do if they actually made the
changes in the master files, and the "extra work" you have to do (worth
it to maintain control) is invisible to them.

Good luck!

--Rick Lippincott
FLIR Systems
Billerica, MA



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