"total" approach to developing documents

Subject: "total" approach to developing documents
From: Chuck Banks <chuck -at- ASL -dot- DL -dot- NEC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1993 12:44:35 CST

To Paul Sholar et al,

Having worked for one failed company that offered
"full maintenance" documentation contracts, I've learned that
the plug-in documentation department (similar to EDS) is a
very hard sell. Small companies and large are willing to
contract temporary talent to get them over a hump, but
they won't pay the cost of an outside replacement documentation
effort. The two client companies who refused such contracts
from my former employer couldn't be sold on the hidden costs
inherent in any documentation effort. The bean counters
were for it, but senior management turned thumbs down.

Small companies can turn out good or even excellent
documentation. The size of the effort has little if anything
to do with the quality of the result. I worked for a small
PC software house whose manager/president pushes everyone,
including his technical writers (I was one of two at the
time) to get involved in the development cycle early and
stay involved until the product went out the door. We
wrote and edited help screens and paper documents. We
reviewed sales materials and software in progress. We met
with programmers regularly during product development and
took customer support calls when the documentation fell
short of customer needs. They contracted with an outside
printer, but all writing, editing, and page composition was
performed internally. I was and am proud of the work we
did and the documents we produced.

Quality documentation comes from adequate information,
in depth research and verification, following established
quality principles, and devoting time and effort to assisting
with product development and document verification. I've
seen one and two-writer departments succeed and 10 and 15-
writer departments fail. Body count does not equal quality.

Best Regards!

Chuck Banks
__ ________ ______
|\\ | || // Chuck Banks
| \\ | ||_______ || Senior Technical Writer
| \\ | || || NEC America, Inc.
| \\| \\______ \\______ E-Mail: chuck -at- asl -dot- dl -dot- nec -dot- com
America, Incorporated CompuServe: 72520,411

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