Re: Doing new things new ways

Subject: Re: Doing new things new ways
From: Caryn Rizell <caryn -at- HPPTC95 -dot- ROSE -dot- HP -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 1994 13:54:46 PDT

The simple answer to your questions is: Of course, technical
communicators could have contributed to the development process!

> (1) Consider this scenario: Engineering begins development of a new
> product. About two months into the project, tech pubs gets involved.
> The project continues toward conclusion, and tech pubs works overtime
> to incorporate last-minute changes. About that time, training
> development begins. The training developers use the same source
> information as did the publications people. The pubs go out with the
> initial deliveries or shortly thereafter. Training becomes available
> some time after initial deliveries. I've seen such a scenario hundred
> of times. Are there any problems with it?

> (3) Marketing consults with a major customer to identify a new
> function the customer needs in a software product. Marketing writes a
> requirements document, engineering interprets it as a specification,
> engineers develop the new function, and it is delivered to the
> customers. When the major customers' employees get it, they say,
> "What is this? I can't use it? It doesn't do anything I need!"

I see these two questions as related. In both cases, pubs
was not involved from the beginning. It is essential that
tech communicators get involved at the very earliest. At a
previous job, we writers were helping design the product.
This was a result of several years efforts to move us up
in the development process. When I started there, we wrote
the documentation from the product as it was being developed
and had to make changes over and over. As the rest of the
company saw what we had to offer (QA, UI design, user
perspective) we were allowed to become involved earlier and

I know, however, that some writers were not too thrilled
about the idea of earlier involvement because it meant
'more work'. They just wanted to write, not be involved
in anything else.

But, in my view, it made my job easier and allowd others
outside the department to see what we could offer, increasing
our value.

So, for me, the question is not 'Should technical communicators
be involved?', but 'How to get them involved?'

There are still many employers out there who do think of
writers as glorified typists (evidenced by the classified ads)
and are reluctant to let communicators 'be all they can be'.

It would be interesting to find out the numbers of us who
are involved early in development vs those who are still
having to wait to get info until the very end.

Just my 2cents.

Caryn Rizell
caryn -at- hpptc95 -dot- rose -dot- hp -dot- com

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