Re: Where does Documentation belong?

Subject: Re: Where does Documentation belong?
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- Remove -dot- bigpond -dot- com>
To: techwr-l
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2004 19:35:37 +1100

<RShuttleworth -at- visualplant -dot- com> wrote in message news:228055 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> So we are looking at where Documentation belongs, and I'd like to draw on
> the opinions of those who have gone this route. We're clearly not talking
> about the IBMs or GMs of this world, but if you work for a small-to-medium
> company, I'd be interested to know where you fit in.

There's a huge mind-set issue here. If you think of
yourself as "documentation" then you belong in
Development. Some writers will like that and some

If you think of yourselves as communications experts,
though, then you don't belong in Development (though
Development will be a customer of yours). You belong
(as John Posada suggests) in Communications or Sales
and Marketing. (I'd put customer training in there too,
though some might not.) Again, some of your writers
will like that and some will not.

One of the points I'm driving at here is that how we
perceive ourselves has a lot to do with how others
perceive us. Some tech writers are incapable of
thinking outside the box ("I document stuff",
whatever that means). Others want to take their
communications skills on the road and go as far as
the organization will let them go.

I've never been really happy in organizations where
I was classified as Development staff. I've always
been happy in organizations where I've been classified
as a cross-organization service provider.

Right now, I report directly to a CEO, do work for
everybody from senior management to R&D to
Sales & Marketing, am considered a "can-do"
communicator no matter what the assignment.
But it took me a lot of looking and waiting, years
of suffering under small-minded, quasi-autistic
engineering managers, and a little luck, to get here.

Those are the sorts of things you'll need to think
about. Who are your writers? What kind of people
are they, what are they capable of, what are they
interested in? That will make all the difference,
not where they stick you on the org chart.
Michael West

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