Re: Maintaining Documentation

Subject: Re: Maintaining Documentation
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2006 16:30:52 -0500

You don't mention the kind of products you work with, but a strategy that mirrors the way they are maintained might be of some use to you. With software, for example, I follow a change control/maintenance methodology similar to what the software product goes through. Bugs, i.e., error correction and rewrites, are prioritized for subsequent editions of the documentation (releases); new content is scoped and integrated as necessary to fit the release. When someone asks for a change that doesn't match am upcoming feature or function, then I plan out what is required and how I'll make that documentation change, and go through the same process as the developers do for a new feature.

If you don't know the plans for product development, this is a good reason to invite yourself into that process. You can tell them that you need to be included in the development so that you can develop the updates to the documentation. If you can get your product creation people to see your role as parallel to theirs, it's easier for them to understand how you work and what you need.

Another idea is to brainstorm, yourself or with other knowledgeable people, the kinds of changes that might be necessary to your documentation. Then you can plug those into your strategy. Will you need to write release notes, for example, for only a few customers to cover a limited-release fix? Will you need to customize documentation for a particular market? How will you handle changes that are common to both documents versus the ones that are unique to each document? Most of this will end up being whatever you decide is the right thing to do for your situation.

Kimberly McClintock wrote:

All --
I'm a relative newbie and I've just completed the
first version of documents for 2 products with about
90% overlap in content. I need to come up with a
maintenance strategy. I don't know what the plans are
for product development; trying to prepare for that
conversation. I'm using Word. Yes, just Word. We do
our help manually.

I've spent an hour searching the archives for
information on best practices in document maintenance
and I'm not finding anything. I realize that the
variables are such that this is a tough question to
ask, but I'm looking for a start...any ideas? Even the
appropriate search terms to find the info in the
archive would help.
Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416.491.5050 x3133


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Maintaining Documentation: From: Kimberly McClintock

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