Re: Using writing plans in technical writing

Subject: Re: Using writing plans in technical writing
From: Kat Nagel <mlists -at- masterworkconsulting -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 15:40:53 -0400

At 12:05 PM -0400 2004/08/23, Hausmann, Robyn wrote:

I am structuring a Technical Writing course for the engineers at my
office. Instead of the usual approach, I am focusing the course on the
tools available that make writing less painful. I am particularly
interested in writing plans, and am looking for some examples.

When I did a similar course as a lunchtime seminar series for the engineers at my last full-time direct-hire gig, I based it on the specific Software Development Life Cycle process they were using for their own work. I started with a flowchart of their process and, for each step in their process, prepared a 30 minute session:
1. Five minutes for them to tell me why that step was important for their development process.
2. Five minutes for me to outline the corresponding step in my typical documentation process, including a couple examples of how I saw that step in my process fit into their process.
3. Fifteen minutes to discuss any questions they had, and any suggestions they had for making both processes mesh together more effectively.

One of my responsibilities was to maintain their SDLC quality system procedures (CMM, ISO, FDA/GMP) and to design and maintain the templates they used for all project documentation. Improving either process made all our lives---if not easier---at least a little bit less stressful. These sessions also helped me understand my role better, see other opportunities where a techwriter could contribute to their projects, and actually got a one of the project leads to request my participation at the planning stages of a couple of his projects. He also helped me rig Rational Rose to feed stuff directly from their modelling application into the company's standard report templates so nobody had to spend hours slaving over the routine reports that went out to our client companies. I was able to prepare those with relatively minor edits, and devote most of my time to the user/sysadmin manuals and the monumental pile of required FDA stuff.

All in all, it was loads of fun. I got what I needed (SMEs eager to give me information), they got what they needed (less pressure for doc stuff at the end of a project), and management got what *it* needed (projects finished on schedule, and a staff that worked well together).

Kat Nagel, MasterWork Consulting

katnagel -at- masterworkconsulting -dot- com



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