RE: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)

Subject: RE: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)
From: Beth Agnew <Beth -dot- Agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2006 09:56:51 -0700

Many of us "fell into techwriting" so you are among good company! The most
important thing to do in this particular situation is to deliver. If you
want more work from them, they must be convinced that you are easy to work
with (i.e., flexible and adaptable) and able to deliver no matter what they
hand you (or what they DON'T hand you).

The great thing about writing is that you can always edit, and you can
always issue a revised edition of a manual. If they are holding up shipping
a product because it has no manual, the first priority is to get some kind
of document completed that will allow them to ship. No ship, no revenue.

I would make the original deadline with the best of what you've got. It
sounds like this company is somewhat in the chaotic, low process maturity
stage, and doing a lot by the seat of the pants. That part of it is not your
fault, you just have to try to work with it as best you can and eventually
instill good project management practices into your area as you can. That
you need to add material is not necessarily your fault. You don't know what
you don't know. And if they are not experienced enough to tell you, then
stuff will be forgotten. Without a process to capture the information you
need for the documentation, you will likely always miss something. I'm
guessing this company doesn't do thorough specifications for their products?
If they did, that would be a great place to get vital info.

I would not ask for an extension to the deadline. I'd power through with
what is available to deliver so this product can ship. However, I would ask
for a second phase so that the omitted material can be added, perhaps you
can get some feedback from customers as well, and you can set a new deadline
for the revised edition. Sending a manual with omitted material is not as
bad as shipping one with errors. Yes, it's better if it's complete, but
under the circumstances (having a product ready to ship but, oops, we forgot
the manual!) I think you're doing great!

In a situation where you are expecting something like these diagrams, and
you consistently don't get them, don't let it bring you to a halt. Keep
moving forward with whatever you can pull together, and unless it's a
showstopper, where the user cannot use the product without the diagrams,
they can always be provided online for download later. You may have to come
up with some creative ways of completing and delivering your documentation!

You have a great opportunity to create a documentation process exactly the
way you want. It will likely evolve as you come to understand the company,
the players, and the products better. Things like a documentation plan, a
project schedule, and a review process will help educate your
colleagues/client as to what it is you really do, what you need, and why you
need it. I have seen chaotic companies become more focused and organized as
they responded to a controlled documentation process. They have to bring
things into line to provide input to the documentation.

You will do fine. Relax into it, develop relationships with your SMEs and
others whose input you need, and you will be successful.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+beth -dot- agnew=senecac -dot- on -dot- ca -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+beth -dot- agnew=senecac -dot- on -dot- ca -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com]On
Behalf Of Mandy
Sent: Friday, April 07, 2006 4:57 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)

Do I ask for an official extension to the deadline? Or do I power thru this
and bust my tail to make the original deadline? ...

Presenting "Podcasting & Vidcasting: The Future of TechComm"
at the STC Conference, Las Vegas, NV, 2 p.m. Wednesday May 10, 2006

Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416-491-5050 x3133


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Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG): From: Mandy

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