Re: Avoiding documentation bottlenecks while maintaining quality

Subject: Re: Avoiding documentation bottlenecks while maintaining quality
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2007 11:35:28 -0700

SB wrote:
> Our company is growing extremely fast. Most of the time, we have to write
> the documentation pretty much while the product is being developed and
> undergoes quality assurance.
> Prioritization is generally set by the Marketing Manager. The documentation
> is one of the requirements for product delivery and many products are being
> developed simultaneously. Documentation is often becoming a bottleneck.

Does the MARKETING MANAGER set the schedule for your deliverables
without consulting you?

> What is the best way to meet the deadlines (management-wise) without
> sacrificing quality or contents and without being a slave driver? How do I
> avoid bottlenecks and get the work done well and efficiently?

This harks to a fundamental mathematically demonstrable truth, an
awesome truth that belongs on the table at every stage of your projects:

o You can have a good document fast, but it will cost more.

o You can have a good document cheep, but it will take longer.

o You can have a cheep document fast, but it will not be good.

> I guess we probably need more Technical Writers. I do face resistance and
> sometimes I too am resistant too because I feel that the document is not
> ready or good enough. Do I want to have my cake and eat it too?

I think you're trying to get the first one--you hire more writers to
deliver good documentation fast. But your company is (implicitly) asking
you for the third one.

> When do you decide that a document is good enough and make your "staff"
> understand that the documentation is part of the product requirement and
> that documentation cannot be a bottleneck.

First things first, Sylvia. You have to create a work environment where
it is possible to meet expectations. If I were you, I would ask the
manager for a meeting to discuss the doc deliverable schedule problems,
and get the arithmetic truth of it on the table. I like the direct

"Fast, Good, Cheep--you can have any two, but not all three. Do the math
with me <insert a simple worksheet showing your average number of
completed pages per day and average number of days allocated to your
projects>. There, you see? I can give you good docs or crappy docs, but
if you want good docs, then I will need more writers or I will need more

This is not the kind of feedback that marketing departments hope for,
but in your case, you owe it to yourself and them to cast the
documentation work in this realistic light. Assuming, that is, that
quality docs are your goal. But I'm not so sure that your company cares
about that, in which case you get to crank out crumby documentation for
them in exchange for a paycheck, if they don't fire you for your
brashness in preaching to them about project management.

> I don't want to be a slave driver but do want to be able to meet the
> deadlines. It is really not good when a product cannot be delivered and the
> company loses money because the documentation is not ready.

Your wiki idea might work, giving you more latitude to continue updating
documentation that was incomplete at product rollout.

But don't be a slave driver if the problem lies upstream of your group.
As manager you need to give your team what they need, not marketing's
blue sky version of how writers should perform.

> Any input on how to optimize work (and management) would be greatly
> appreciated.

Hope this helps.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

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Avoiding documentation bottlenecks while maintaining quality: From: SB

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