Technical writing in the development process

Subject: Technical writing in the development process
From: "Melissa Nelson" <melmis36 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2006 19:17:55 -0400

HI All,
I was wondering if I could get some responses about how you as a technical writer are involved in the software development process.
Presently, at my office I am not involved at all until the very end and then I find myself trying to do eight weeks of documentation in two or three weeks, as the developers tend to see a July 30th deadline as meaning they should have it done on July 29th. :) That is an exaggeration...but not much of one. They tend to leave a week to ten days for QA and documentation, which if it is one developer and one project is do-able...but there are nine developers and one QA and one tech. writer...and this month there are three projects with the same deadline, which is the week of my vacation (which is to celebrate my Dads 75th birthday and can't be rescehduled) I have talked to the developers and while one or two of them seem sympathetic, the rest have an "I will give to you when I give it to you" attitude. I also understand that they work their butts off for the most part too, and anyone that is not a developer is viewed by them as support.
I understand that to a large extent this is the nature of the beast, at my last office the developer's had to get it to QA and Documentation four weeks before it was delivered. I do not see this happening at the my present office.
I would like to talk to my PM about it, as it seems a tad silly that I spend weeks trying to come up with ways to keep busy, including a ton of non-technical writer projects, and then pull my hair out and struggle to come up with documentation that I am not even very happy with. As I said, I understand that much of this is just the nature of the beast, but if I could talk to my PM and give him some real examples of how the tech writer is used overall in the entire development process, perhaps I could find a little more consistency in my work load during the next development process.
Thanks for any and all suggestions. Luckily, I have a vacation at the end of the while it will be a stressful four weeks...I can handle it as the OshKosh EAA Air Show and my Dad's 75th birthday await!


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