Re: TW on the development team (long)

Subject: Re: TW on the development team (long)
From: Bonni Graham <bonnig -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 17:51:50 -0800

Sue Gallagher wrote:

>Has anyone who is in the position of tech-writer-on-the-development-
>team had positive growth opportunities? I may be all wet here (it's
>been known to happen ;-) ), but I see this "trend" as covert
>subjugation that we, as a profession, need to guard against.

Sue is only slightly damp here (YMMV). At Document Sciences (my
current "primary" client) we use the team approach, but they are
clearly cross-functional teams. Each person on the team from a
different discipline is assumed to be expert in that discipline and is
the "leader" of that area of effort.

Recent project example:
New release of software being bundled with our system. Development is
handled by company we bought right to distribute from.

One manager
Two QC techs (one senior, one junior)
One marketeer
One hotline manager
One in-house developer, mostly used for reality-checking on demands
One writer (me)

On this team, I am the documentation expert. Unless I am overruled by
the manager (rare, and almost always for budget/schedule reasons), I am
the Court of Last Resort for documentation decisions. Ditto each of
the other team members. I lead all the documentation effort,

o scheduling/managing other team members who are reviewing the doc
o managing test plans and test cases for the online help
o deciding, within reasonable budget/time/company image consistency
constraints, the look, feel, and extent of the documentation set

I didn't get to go as far as I wanted for this release, but all my
ideas are recorded and prioritized for the next release (where I will
also be the doc team leader, as I am this document's Owner).

Am I in charge of the whole project? No, nor do I want to be. Am I in
charge of myself and my efforts? Most certainly, even when I want to
push some of it away.

>There is no one who understands the communication process (such
>as a doc manager) to come to our defense when the lead programmer
>demands that we change the wording or delete a cautionary note
>because we point out a defect or cluge in the software."

In this scenario, I don't need it. I come to my own defense. I have
also requested and received several product changes because of the way
some warnings were worded (as alarmingly as possible -- I really wanted
this feature fixed!).

How we accomplished it is mostly due to a) a GREAT project manager who
is a MANAGER first and techie second, and b) insistance on respect for
everyone's contribution. I am the Doc Owner. The Marketeer is the
Product Placement Owner. The tester is the Code Owner (since this is
being coded out-of-house), etc.

Team playing can lead to Sue's situation, but it doesn't have to.

Bonni Graham
Manual Labour
bonnig -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com

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