Re: Messages. . .and new thread

Subject: Re: Messages. . .and new thread
From: sanders_j -at- TBOSCH -dot- DNET -dot- GE -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 28 May 1993 09:46:50 EDT

Hi all,

Lisa Kaytes:
>I'm interested in finding
>out how other writers have made the transition from writing feature-oriented
>software documentation to process-oriented documentation.

Well, when I was working at a software firm a few years back, we had a very
large set of programs which made up some corporate accounting software. At the
time, everything was documented on a program-by-program basis, with the poor
accountants basically figuring things out as they went along, I imagine mainly
from the program names. When we moved to process-oriented documentation, with
an accompanying reference manual, we had to sit down and go through the system
in a way that would follow proper accounting procedures. In effect, we
simulated the tasks that the end users would have to accomplish and did them
using the software. A few weeks later, we started using the software for the
in-house accounting entirely, and found out all sorts of neat things (bugs,
mis-named programs, yucko reports, etc.).

Nothing beats usability testing in real time.

The manual started taking on a whole new form, and I started writing documen-
tation that reflected accounting procedures rather than program procedures.
A lot of that old documentation was still useful, especially in the reference
manual, but interweaved with the new instructions covering a wide variety of
issues over a number of programs, particularly system administration programs.
Since we had a division between the standard user and the administrative user,
we often had cues in the standard user text telling them that the admin would
have to be involved at a certain point, and in the admin text telling them
what overall system considerations were involved in making those changes, or
starting that process.

We also ended up explaining a lot more of the design of the system, and
explaining the theory behind the way the system was setup. I think a lot of
that helped. We also found that concrete examples were like gold in developing
a process-oriented manual.

Hey, I hope this helps. A lot of it seems kind of vague looking back, but I
hope you get the idea.

-John Sanders-

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