Re: Interesting job description
The less SME time a tech writer needs, the less impact they have on the critical path of product development.
This is also the basis on which tech writers can negotiate for higher pay. If you can go to the company and say, "I can produce the requisite documentation with less impact on the critical path than the next guy," that is a value proposition that any project manager can understand.
Yes, and yes. But...
This works only if the organization has some semblance of process and change management. If there are no specs, and the software is so buggy that the writer can have no confidence that how it works is supposed to be how it works, then there's nothing the writer can do except take up the SME's time. We cannot read minds (as someone else postulated would be necessary), or predict what amazing new feature the SME might decide to add during the last week of development.
The only way we can do our jobs without SME interaction is if there's something to take the place of the SME. And by "something," I don't mean the old waterfall method of spending years writing specs. But even in Agile, one is supposed to have sprint-related documentation that tells what the product/software is supposed to do.
If there are no design docs, user stories, (Kanban) planning, or anything, and the software is such (either too buggy, or requires test bed setups that writers aren't allowed to access) that the writer can't simply exercise itâand yes, I've been in organizations like thisâthen personally interviewing the SMEs is all that's left.
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