Expanding a company's technical writing group?

Subject: Expanding a company's technical writing group?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Jennifer_Gidner -at- dom -dot- com, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2005 15:50:48 -0500

Jennifer Gidner wonders: <<I am the senior tech writer of our group (of two)... I work for a company of 5,000+ employees. Ratio sounds a bit off, doesn't it?>>

Nothing wrong with that ratio if only 2 of those employees produce stuff that you need to document. <g> That somewhat facetious statement provides the clue you need to start your analysis. What types of documentation (e.g., policies and procedures, an intranet of "best practices", training modules for your key software) do the other 4998+ need? What would they benefit from having available?

<<Well, we just got a new boss and he wants to expand our group. He has asked me to "make him believe" - come up with a strategy to expand the group.>>

Start by asking him what types of metrics he believes that his peers (other managers) and bosses (the people who approve his recommendations) will accept. They're the ones who have to buy in before you can hire new colleagues, and you'll need to present your case in a manner that they understand. For that matter, ask him to ask them what types of documentation have been requested in the past but not provided because you had insufficient resources to do the work. In short, appeal to their self-interest and the overall interest of the employer.

Then think of some of the payoff from producing these types of documentation: Could you reduce employee calls to the help desk by producing a kickass intranet? Could you avoid delaying software releases by 2 weeks by adding an additional staffer? Could you provide in-house training and save costs for training consultants? In short, think of what kind of payback would be meaningful to the people who will approve or reject the decision to hire more staff. This will include both things that affect them personally, and things that affect their employees and the employer as a whole.

Once you have a list of the things people want to do, you can use your productivity estimates (how fast you and your colleagues work) to estimate the minimum number of new hires required to produce this information.

<<In the past, I marketed our services by standing up in front of directors and project managers and demonstrating various Help systems and passing out information on the other types of manuals and user guides that we can produce.>>

If they liked what they saw, then you've got enough credibility to persuade them that you can do the same with other projects--if only you had time and staff to do so.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Expanding a Company's Technical Writing Group: From: Jennifer_Gidner

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