Training & manuals with product roll-out

Subject: Training & manuals with product roll-out
From: "Dimock, Dick" <red -at- ELSEGUNDOCA -dot- ATTGIS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 Nov 1995 11:35:00 PST

Docs and Training Ready for Product Roll-Out: The Holy Grail of Tech. Comm.

K@ gave a good description of how she made it work - almost work.

We also chase the Grail here at AT&T. Docs and Training MUST, repeat


be in place before the product goes to final release.


The first stage is the first drafts for what we call "Engineering Field
Trial", or
what the world calls Alpha release. We ship mainframes and software, both
new and both still in the courting phase of their relationship. Engineering
Trial can be as much as 6 months ahead of preliminary release. Or longer,
depending on the trial results.

First draft books have our best shot at the topic. We have already been
researching and writing for perhaps 3 months, but this is a big product,
docs. So the first draft is not so much like Swiss cheese as it is like a
No effort at polished production yet, but it does have a TOC. (We learned
the TOC gotta be there in order for installers to use the book in order to
get any feedback at all.) The Field Trials are usually several, and chaotic.

Meanwhile back at the Ranch, we continue chasing that Grail. We have a
release level called Initial Customer Installation (ICI), AKA Beta release.

Here the first live customer gets their eagerly-awaited

`8Q 80 B| :{ system.

For this second-level release, we sling out second drafts and a pilot
We gotta sign off on blood that these products are available, else the
be stopped cash flow interrupted, and heads appear on pikes.

SO, we get *something* together. The books are reasonably close and have
a higher level of polish. We have to have copies available in our
distribution system before the ICI date, which means one to two weeks of
time. Which means we lag the system development by two weeks at this point.

Trainers have already figured out content, and may or may not have
already given the pilot course. Some times, like December 15th, are not good
for courses. But the course is ready. See the signature?

By now, the system is working to some degree. The hardware and software
seem to be enjoying each other's company, and conversing. Some production
can actually be done at the customer's site. There is great promise. and

Naturally, the system still evolves and fixes and changes its mind about

There is an undefined time span between Initial Customer Installation and
Customer Availability (GCA). It is often two or three months. It can be one
It can be 2 weeks. It has happened that they are simultaneous. So sometimes
glorious Second Draft becomes the Final.

Finals gotta have indexes, and full production spiff (like, you know,

Hang the content! Slap the covers on!

Sigh. Anyway...

The content of the books and courses is constantly seeking closer and closer
the real product. The Final is the best we could do.

Many times, we have shipped our little bundles of joy off to distribution on
on target, overnight express, etc. , only to come in the next day and find
development schedule has slipped and there is now another 3 months to go.

Or 2 weeks. With 2 weeks slippage, and 2 week lead time to printer, *They*
2 weeks to change all the dang screens, and we are frozen in time.

The final release is NEVER final. Three months later comes the first
release. Here pubs and training get caught up to what the product was 1
before the Maintenance Release.

Then there is a new release that fixes what still wasn't right, and adds new
Whiz features. Again we lag the product by about a month.

Reaching the Holy Grail is like reaching the speed of light - it takes
infinite energy
to make it the last centimeter per second.

Things we have accomplished that get us closer:

Modem transfer to our Printer/Distribution Point

On-Demand Printing at Printer/Distribution Point - about one day,
and books are in stock

Input Cutoff date after which no further changes will be
incorporated. Well communicated to Development.

Things we have stepped in that drop us back:

CD ROM publication, which required heavy production work for
formatting. CD goes out 2 months after Final release. This
gets in way of preparing the Maintenance Release.

Master Index, which lags Final date by 1 month. It ties together all
book indexes into one overall index. User can find which
book to look in. This is nightmare country, because no
two writers index the same, terms are slightly different, etc.
We make a manual edit pass of the Master Index book itself,
then go back and correct index entries in EACH of 40 books
to recompile into the improved Master Index. Help, LORI !!
(Lori Latham taught us indexing. It did improve our skills.)

I have an idea that software might be creatable to automate
this step to some degree. Not index, but propagate corrected
entries backward into the original book index and thence to
the actual index entries.

It is my humble opinion that the Grail will never be attained.

Even in my moonlight work for a tiny company, I can't get books completely
current for a shipment - ANY shipment. I hope eventually to have the tiny
company running on an automatic publishing system, in which I can type raw
text and IT will do everything else. And then I will market this gigantic

And I will virus check each outgoing diskette.


Dick Dimock Tracking the next ICI date for

AT&T GIS which has sworn the date will hold, not slide, not waver, in

El Segundo, CA where the sun shines brightly upon the *top* of the
protective smog layer. No sun screen for us!
Update on the Halloween Ghost: The city water tower
was due for sandblasting and repainting, so the huge
sheet was placed around the tower to contain the sand
drift. The timing was right, so the crew rigged the two big
black eyes to the cloth tent. It still looms today!
richard -dot- dimock -at- elsegundoca -dot- attgis -dot- com

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