RE: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs

Subject: RE: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs
From: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riveraintech -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:22:23 -0400

The SMEs are each experts in one specific subject, just as you describe
it, and there are many subjects that go into the documentation.

So I'm not an SME; I channel multiple SMEs using my magical tech writer
Jedi powers, and the result is their combined wisdom.

(For more on Jedi tech writers, see

-----Original Message-----
From: William Sherman
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 5:00 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs

As SME is a sore spot with me, I'll have to say that at most places I
have been, the technical writer was the subject matter expert.

However, I think you are referring to the engineer who in most cases I
found is NOT the subject matter expert. They may be the expert on the
design but you find the assembly line person is the expert on how it
goes together (thus you can figure how it comes apart), the tech is the
expert on what makes it work and what makes it work again when it
doesn't, and the programmer is the expert on what makes it think and

Rarely is this handled by one person. The only one close to knowing all
of it, thus being the subject matter expert, is the tech writer.

While I haven't answered your question on ROI, it seems to me you are
asking is it better to have a person dedicated to knowing all of it or
having a person who only knows his slice of it. You may spend more
money due to adding a technical writer, but a good one will pull all the
pieces together along with being sure all the "T"s are dotted and the
"I"s crossed. It is rare to find an engineer who does more than include
the bare minimum of information.

In some places, they would have a person called a systems engineer who
knows all of it, but frequently, I have found system engineer to merely
be a title given after an engineer reaches a certain level in his job
and needs a higher pay rating. Quite frequently, they are still
subsystem engineers, just a different title.

Since this is heavy equipment, is this for Caterpillar?

If you were talking a software product, then hiring a fluent programmer
might be a good idea as the programmer may know all aspects of the
software product, although that seems to be something programmed out of

With the current state of education systems in the US, unless you are
dealing with a technician, engineer, or programmer who is over 50 years
old, odds are his/her command of English and grammar are not up to the
task, and he is proud of that fact.

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RE: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs: From: William Sherman

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