Re: Issues about documentation process/management

Subject: Re: Issues about documentation process/management
From: Sharon Burton <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 07:42:44 -0700

It sounds like it's time to start planning your projects. Get your
hands on some of JoAnne Hackos' books on project planning.

At bare minimum, start with outlines and time estimates for each
section. Get those approved by the project managers. Don't schedule
more than 40 hours of writing time per week, total 50 hours of working
time. Error rates start to skyrocket after more than this. People get

Planning starts to make this all a conversation about "How do we get
the work done? What is important to us as a company to do and what can
wait, considering that time/number of bodies is always an issue? We
clearly can't deliver everything we'd like in the time available with
the bodies available. What do we have to deliver? Do we perhaps
outsource? Do we perhaps throw quality out the door? What other
options do we have?"

When you show that to do a full doc set would take 8 months and the
product is shipping in 3, it starts to let the organization decide
what is really needed. Perhaps a Getting Started Guide is all that can
be done. Perhaps funds can be found to outsource. But simply saying
"This is too much!" isn't a business reason to explore other options.
Planning starts to expose this to the organization.

Additionally, all docs issues must be sent upstream from you,
regardless of that person's interest in hearing them. Even if your
boss doesn't want to hear that docs are going to be delayed, you must
push that upstream, along with the solution, if there is one. But
planning up front will help you show that this was a known and
know-able issue. Because you will be working to the plan.

And all of us have been in this situation. It may not be possible to
fix this. Some organizations like working this way and don't want to
do it another way.


Quoting SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>:

> I am not sure that I will or want to remain in this position but while I am
> still in it, I would like to figure out the following:
> 1. My boss wants the writers to be responsible per projects. However, the
> size of some documents is just way too big to handle, especially if they
> have to be delivered in a short period of time. So, I suggested
> that for the
> larger projects (800 pages), we should divide the project among
> the writers
> in a reasonable manner so that the projects can be done on time. I believe
> that having one writer work on one large document by him/herself
> is a recipe
> for failure mainly because of the size, unless the writer is given a very
> long time to do it, which is never the case. So, what should I recommend?
> 2. What is best for the user? One large pdf file or several files.
> My concern is that when giving several files, it may look like it is not a
> single product. However, maybe one file may be hard for the user
> to manage?
> Any input on this?
> 3. There are some serious problems with the current quality of the
> documentation as a result of lack of time and personnel - We need
> to decide
> about the importance of documentation. Our company is growing and I wanted
> to know how long it should take per writer to write let's say a 200 page
> document from scratch or do a major rewrite with an existing backbone,
> assuming that some sections can be relatively complex. What is
> considered a
> reasonable estimate of time per writer, per page? In our company, we are
> given a date and expected to deliver by then because the documentation is
> part of the product delivery. If we have lots to do and not enough
> personnel, is is reasonable to ask the writers to sacrifice on quality and
> focus on contents first? If not what should be done?
> 4. Should I expect my boss to set the documentation priorities and to
> have a weekly meeting on the status of the documentation? Not sure why but
> he cancelled the weekly meetings and he does not have much time
> nor interest
> in dealing with the documentation issues.
> 5. Is it unreasonable for me and too demanding to request that a writer
> meets a deadline even it it means sacrificing quality considering the
> situation?. Or should I insist that my company delivers quality and let my
> them deal with the consequences when projects that are not done
> as a result
> of lack of time and personel?
> Thanks,
> Sylvia


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Issues about documentation process/management: From: SB

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