Re: Technical writing in the development process

Subject: Re: Technical writing in the development process
From: Me Too <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2006 18:00:32 -0700 (PDT)

> 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.

About as much as a day laborer is involved in
designing the house.

> 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. :)

Welcome to the club. This is exactly the same thing I
have to put up with, and it is an almighty pain.

> sympathetic, the rest
> have an "I will give to you when I give it to you"
> attitude.

Same thing here. I've worked many years with software
developers, and have found it is one of the
characteristics of the species that they will always
push time limits to the absolute last second. I don't
know how many times I've had to deliver a software
user manual on a certain day, and the developers are
still changing the screens on the GUI the day before.
What's worst is having to do online help for a
software product that has to be burned on the CD and
shipped with the product, and the developers don't
finalize things until the day before the Gold CD is
cut - been there and done that too many times.

Your experiences are probably par for the course, and
I seriously doubt that you can do anything about them
unless you are working for managers who actually care
a fig about documentation. In other words, your chance
of doing anything about it without a major change of
personnel is probably vanishingly small.

In my current job, I have to develop design documents
based on the requirement documents that are done by
the technical project managers. The RDs are NEVER up
to date because we're constantly making design changes
after the initial agreements, and documenting those
changes is something everybody always leaves until
they don't have more pressing business in development.
In other words, it almost never gets done. Most of the
time, the only knowledge transfer about design changes
is conversations between the engineers and the TPMs.

When the PMs and TPMs go through the planning sessions
with the customers that set the initial agreements on
what functionality we will deliver, they're supposed
to record everything that concerns design specs in
documents that are managed through a system called
Privia. That is supposed to contain all documents that
pass between us and the customers concerning design
issues. I don't know if it does or not because I
haven't had a chance to check it out yet. I didn't
find out about this Privia thing until three days ago.
I've been working here for over 3 years, and in all
this time nobody ever told me about this information
repository, despite all the times I've complained
about not being in the loop and asking to be included
in the planning sessions with no response.

I think I've probably answered your initial question.


Keith Hood
Senior (only) tech writer
ACS, Inc.

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Technical writing in the development process: From: Melissa Nelson

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