SMEs/QA don't have time to review the documentation

Subject: SMEs/QA don't have time to review the documentation
From: SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 14:23:59 +0200

I would like to know how you are getting the material when doing the
technical writing and how it should be done.

Some of the teams have to be chased senseless. They never have the time for
technical writing. They always dump the reviews on the same one or two
people instead of splitting the chapters among a few people who end up
really resenting this and end up not cooperating.

This is what happens with us:

1. An update is planned. If I am lucky, I get a spec but a lot of it does
not target the user.
2. I have to review all the GUI windows and run them, one buy one because
it always changes. Sometimes changes are minor, sometimes major. There is no
system that keeps track of deltas.
3. I also have to review each CLI command and syntax one by one because
there isn't really a system that provides the deltas. There are hundreds of
4. Many times, I can't get a system on which I can run things because
there are not enough of them. So, I can just look at things. Sometimes it is
hard to reflect what a feature is actually doing.
5. If I am lucky, someone sits with me for a bit.

Because our documentation is very big (some projects are close to 1000
pages) and there are a lot of releases, this can be really overwhelming.

1. Then I send a review. Because there are so many changes between
versions, it is really hard to just highlight a section. Most of the
document, if not all has to be reviewed.
2. The SMEs don't have the time to review or when they do, they often
annotate with questions or comments without providing actual content or
corrections or sometimes what they write is not necessarily clear. As a
result, subsequent meetings are required, which takes even more time.

I have always done my best to do it all by myself, assuming as much writing
as possible and leaving just the review to the SMEs who do not provide true
contents. However, at this point, I am collapsing, working around the clock
24/7 and the SMEs don't have the time to review despite the theoretical
planning. With some of the teams, it is a major struggle because there are
always crises and nothing is planned as an alternative excuses of all kinds.

I believe that one of the problems is that R&D does not own the contents and
does budget for the documentation, not to mention the reviews.

The company is growing and so is the technical writing team and we have to
deliver and am really frustrated at the way things work with some of the
teams. I would like to know how things are done in your company and what I
can do to improve the process. Do you have an established procedure?

Should the SMEs review and prepare the manual and provide all the screen
captures and information before I review the document?

It has gotten to a stage beyond what a human being can tolerate and I would
like to be able to get this back under control without having to quit (by
the way, we are not compensated for overtime). A new technical writer will
start in about a week, so now we will be three. However, that will not fix
the review process. Maybe you have some advice? Some procedure improvements?

Thanks in advance for your feedback,


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