Re: Promotion (was RE: IT documentation

Subject: Re: Promotion (was RE: IT documentation
From: "Doc" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2004 14:19:34 -0800

>I'd love some suggestions on how to affect the bottom line.

Caveat techwriter: Be aware that the following bears a superficial
resemblance to the rationale for outsourcing. If, by some sick twist of
fate, you devise a value-adding plan for documentation that lands on the
desk of a superficial manager, setting the wrong wheels in motion, YOYO (yer
on yer own).

You can find some discussion in the literature from professors at U of Wa.
IIRC, Reddish and Ramey are authors on papers about adding value through
technical writing.

In practice, it can be fairly easy to do. I'll give you an example from a
big IT organization. It may not be directly applicable if you don't support
dozens of 24x7 techs/analysts/administrators, but the principle is
bulletproof (in the business sense) and might kickstart some thinking about
how it could apply to your circumstances.

I had a project with a team of Sys Admins -- they're one of the 24x7 groups
who felt they were chronically overworked, and they conceived a plan to give
some of their work to a team lower down in the scheme of things. They had a
good business case for this plan, because the team that would become
responsible for the work was less-well paid than the Sys Admins.

I wasn't involved until later, but I suspect that there had been a
discussion about adding head-count to the Sys Admin team, and someone had
reasoned that adding a lesser-paid head would be more cost effective. By
the time I became involved, a plan had emerged: they wanted to document the
top 10 problems that Sys Admins spend their time on. The documentation
would be a thorough set of descriptions, diagnostics, and fix-it procedures.

It was no big thing for me to do, because the Sys Admins already had a web
site with some broken links and garbled notes about the problem descriptions
and the shell scripts they used. I took it all in and wrote it up in a
document. I drove it through several review cycles before it became final,
because they, like all expert-level workers, had a bunch of details stored
in their heads, and it took a while for me to coax it all out onto paper. I
facilitated that process by methodically breaking down each step of their
procedures into irreducible steps, and feeding any gaps I found back to the
Sys Admins for edification.

In the end, they handed off responsibility for the top 10 time consuming
problems to a less-well paid group. Et voila! Value added through
well-digested documentation. If it needs to be said, I was laid off shortly
thereafter. Don't know if my job was outsourced.

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
tel: 360-434-7197

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