Document Creation/Change?

Subject: Document Creation/Change?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, vrfour -at- verizon -dot- net
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 11:11:03 -0400

James Barrow reports a SharePoint project: <<My plan was to load all
of my document templates onto the Sharepoint site and allow all
employees to create documents from within the site... I would act as
the gatekeeper ensuring the accuracy of the doc, correct format, and
whether or not the document had already been created. Once I was
done with the doc, I would forward the doc to the respective project
manager so that the document could be marked as completed in the
project plan. Once the project manager was done with the doc, he
would submit it to the appropriate business unit for (realistically)
a rubber stamp approval, which would then cause the document to
appear in the Sharepoint site.>>

Sounds reasonable: this approach provides control over the review and
revision process, and uses your expertise to make the docs consistent
and effective. It has the key virtue of making a single person
responsible for the process, which is important; in my experience
(nearly 20 years), leaving the responsibility vague and undefined is
a recipe for poor results.

<<Unfortunately, this was shot down. The PMO changed the process so
that all document templates and requests for new documents has to be
approved by them. Once approved, all meetings that the tech writers
conduct with SMEs has to be approved by them also. To top it off,
once a tech writer submits a doc to the PMO, he or she gives up all
control of that document, meaning that I only have read-only access
to the documents that I created...unless special permission is

Unfortunately for you, this isn't necessarily an unreasonable
approach. Project managers (your PMO group) are ultimately
responsible for ensuring the success of a project, so it makes good
sense for them to control the process. That's doubly or trebly true
if they possess a broader and deeper knowledge of the overall
operating context than you do, which is often the case. So long as
they can provide the same types of quality control that you proposed,
there really isn't much to choose between the two approaches, and
their approach may even be superior. But it's the caveat about
quality control that bears further examination: can they provide this
quality control? If not, you've got a problem.

Your words "unless special permission is granted" reveal a potential
solution. I've found that it's usually easier to go with the flow and
use the energy of that flow to achieve something rather than standing
firm and trying to fight the flow, pitting strength against strength.
In this case, they've already acknowledged that special permission is
a possibility, thus a suitable approach might be the following: ask
for that special permission, and justify your request. For example:
"You folks need someone to do the following quality control steps for
publications: [list]. You don't really have the staff resources to do
this, and besides, your staff aren't expert at this, so why don't you
assign this task to me? You can give me the necessary access rights
directly in SharePoint, and I'll work directly with you to ensure
that the process works to your satisfaction."

That's not just theory, by the way. I did exactly this at a former
employer. As editor, I had no control over the overall process, but
it was acknowledged that I was the guy who should be performing the
QA step. So I did.

<<I understand that a project manager is responsible for the success
of a project, but has anyone heard of a project management office
seizing so much control over documentation?>>

Yup, and as noted above, it's not necessarily a suboptimal approach.
It's the "seizing" part that's more of a concern. Your choice of this
word suggests that there was no consultation, and that the PMO ran a
power play to steamroll everyone else and seize power. If that's a
fair appraisal of the situation, then it represents a serious problem
because of the attitude and interpersonal interactions that it
suggests are at work in your workplace. You'll have a much harder
time getting yourself involved in the process if they really are
bloody-minded tyrants with no interest in working with anyone else.

Of course, that's probably a simplistic look at the real situation.
Spend some time understanding why and how they did this, and use that
knowledge to your benefit when you approach them to propose
alternatives. Different types of people require a different approach,
and you can't succeed without understanding what motivates and
demotivates them.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Document Creation/Change: From: James Barrow

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