Re: Expanding a Company's Technical Writing Group

Subject: Re: Expanding a Company's Technical Writing Group
From: Jennifer_Gidner -at- dom -dot- com
To: Ellen McDaniel <ellen -at- vidiom -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 10:48:59 -0500

Hi all,

Ellen made some very good points - I didn't really provide enough
information. I work for a big utility - several of you have mentioned a
marketing department - we don't have much there (still regulated).

As for tech support, we have one giant help desk (40+ people). These folks
answer calls about ALL company applications as well as all desktop support.
Calls aren't really tracked by application.

I've always stayed away from marketing writing, because honestly, I stink
at it. However, I'm really trying to come up with a good marketing pitch
at the moment and I'm finding it very hard to put together concrete savings
figures. I know we save money - all those people that read the user guides
and online Help would occasionally call the help desk - but I've been asked
to find out "how GE does it". "How do they expand their TW group?, etc."

My boss is definitely not the pointy-haired variety (a really kind person,
actually), but he likes to do everything like the big "proven" companies,
and I'm guessing they all have more than 2 TWs. :)

But thanks to all of you for your many ideas and kind words!

If you happen to see yourself in this e-mail and have successfully (or
unsuccessfully) navigated these waters, I'm always interested in more
ideas. Thanks!

Jen




Ellen McDaniel
<ellen -at- vidiom -dot- com
> To
Jennifer_Gidner -at- dom -dot- com
12/06/2005 05:19 cc
PM
Subject
Re: Expanding a Company's Technical
Writing Group










Jen,

Do you have a technical support department? If they are answering
questions from customers, ask them how frequently they refer the
customers to the documentation. Once per day? Once per week? Twice a
day? etc. That will give you some numbers. Also ask if they've run into
information that they've either had to create themselves or that they'd
find useful and would like it created.

What does your company do? Are you a products company? A services
company? If you are a products company, how many products do you
release a year? If you had more resources, what would you have them
work on? Would they be working on new products or adding information to
existing documents?

Be prepared to put together a plan or powerpoint presentation. Explain
where you are today, and where you could be with one additional
resource...then two additional resources...then...up to the number you
think you'd realistically need. For example, "today, we have this help
system with x number of pages, but with one additional person focused on
this help system for x months, we could cover the entire system and have
x number of pages."

Think about the qualifications that would be necessary and don't be
afraid to make recommendations. For example, in my organization, I have
13 writers. Some are specialized in certain programming languages, some
have online help skills, others write excellent user guides, and still
others write great marketing collateral. All have excellent writing
skills, a can-do attitude, and are good verbal communicators. Think
about the skills that you think would be helpful for the writers coming
in...and you should feel free to suggest things like writer 2 should
have a lot of experience with online help, while writer 3 should be more
of a code specialist. It shows that you have specific tasks in mind for
each position.

Think about training. Do you have a style guide? Who will train the
writers on products and processes specific to your group? Will you have
a lead writer for each project or will some of the writers work for a
lead writer? I'd recommend that you think about recommending a
staggered approach: Hire one writer, train them, get them up to speed,
and two months later, hire a second one. Otherwise, your productivity
is likely to come to a screeching halt.

And, feel free to ask if you have any specific questions...or if
something doesn't make sense.

Ellen

Jennifer_Gidner -at- dom -dot- com wrote:

>Dear Techwhirlers,
>
>I've been a quiet voice on this list for 5 years now and I have a question
>that I haven't seen addressed very often, so I'm desperately hoping to
pool
>your years of experience....
>
>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? 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. He
wants
>to know how it's done at other companies, how does he market us, do we
>provide real value, etc.
>
>I'm really at a loss on what to tell him. 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. That's pretty much
>all the experience I have with that....
>
>Anyway, your help would be GREATLY appreciated! I am available on or off
>list - I'm just looking forward to hearing your ideas!
>
>Thanks so much!
>
>Jen Gidner
>
>
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>^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>
>Now Shipping -- WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word! Easily create online
>Help. And online anything else. Redesigned interface with a new
>project-based workflow. Try it today! http://www.webworks.com/techwr-l
>
>Doc-To-Help 2005 now has RoboHelp Converter and HTML Source: Author
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>proprietary editor! *August release.
http://www.componentone.com/TECHWRL/DocToHelp2005
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Now Shipping -- WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word! Easily create online
Help. And online anything else. Redesigned interface with a new
project-based workflow. Try it today! http://www.webworks.com/techwr-l

Doc-To-Help 2005 now has RoboHelp Converter and HTML Source: Author
content and configure Help in MS Word or any HTML editor. No
proprietary editor! *August release. http://www.componentone.com/TECHWRL/DocToHelp2005

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