RE: What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch

Subject: RE: What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch
From: "Lippincott, Richard" <RLippincott -at- as-e -dot- com>
To: Simon <wingman1985 -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot- cn>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2013 14:22:17 +0000

First, you need to figure out who the significant project players are in the company. Not the engineers, not the SMEs, but the project managers and program managers. Not the people who design the product, but the people who approve the design of the product. Go to them, introduce yourself, explain what you're doing, and explain to them that in order for this documentation thing to succeed, you will need information and access.

Then, you need to set up some policies and procedures, a process that will become an accepted official company document. In these policies and procedures, you will formally institute the steps that those managers will have to follow to ensure that you're kept in the loop. These do not have to be major changes, really all you have to do is have your position added to the list of people informed about new stuff. Be sure that these policies and procedures are designed so that you are the gatekeeper to decide what goes into the documentation. We all know this story: the engineers take weeks to design a new feature that they're proud of and think requires a major overhaul of the docs, we look and say "Ummmm...that's about three sentences." Or, there's the other end, the small change that to them is nothing ("We just moved this button to the other side, but the function is the same") but for you it impacts dozens of graphics on dozens of pages.

After that, you can develop a process for actually producing the documentation (describing the draft cycle, review process, and setting expectations for completion of the documentation).

In other words, before you can do anything else, you have to ensure that the company's management structure and the official processes and procedures are set so that you are included in the loop for product development and product changes. If you do not do this, things will happen without your knowledge, and people will come to you at the last minute and ask "Where can I find the manual for Product X that we're shipping today?" and you will answer "What's a Product X?"

There are of course also decisions on the style, format, and delivery method of the documentation as well as decisions on the tools. That's the easy part (and the more fun part), but if you do this part without having done the previous four paragraphs, you'll find that you're spinning your wheels, missing data, missing deadlines that you didn't even know existed, not getting much done, and feeling that the work you are producing is incomplete.

Good luck.

--Rick Lippincott

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+rlippincott=as-e -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+rlippincott=as-e -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Simon
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 12:28 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch

This is a questionI have been thinking for a long time. Constrained by a lack of experience, I find it difficult to have a comprehesive picture. From some premiliary internet searches, I think one perquistive is that change management needs to be handled well before actual transition takes place. What do you think?


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References:
What are the perquisites to set up a company's documentation group from scratch: From: Simon

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