One document for both training and reference

Subject: One document for both training and reference
From: "John P. Brinegar" <johnbri -at- PRIMENET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 16:26:41 -0700

Julie Tollefson wrote:

>Our technical writing department has been asked to investigate the
>possibility of producing one document that meets training and reference
>needs. By doing this, we would be able to eliminate duplication of effort
>between our department and our training department. We would like to know
>whether others have taken this approach and, if so, whether they feel it has
>been successful. If it has been successful, how have they measured that
>success? Any information or anecdotes you can provide would be appreciated.

I and a few others tried to get real management support for this concept
(not really one document, but one development effort) and we did our
darndest to implement it. I'm convinced that better quality can be attained
this way at lower cost.

Unfortunately, it worked only partly. Tech writing managers and tech pubs
managers had differing objectives and differing deadlines, so while they
said they fully supported the concept, it didn't get fully implemented. If
tech pubs and training had been put under the same first-line management, I
believe it could have worked.

We did get some benefit through cooperation between tech writers and
training developers and we did benefit from improved feedback from the
trainers, who always started into a project many weeks later than the tech

In my opinion, the best solution is to have training, tech pubs, and other
support groups participate in cross-functional teams. These teams consist
of everyone with a stake in the development, marketing, use, and support of
a product (engineers, marketeers, tech support people, customers, trainers,
and tech pubs people). They work together through the full product life
cycle (conception, development, delivery, use, and support) to minimize the
need for training and documentation.

John P. Brinegar,
Consulting and development
-Performance support systems
-Technical communications

Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.
(602) 278-7398
johnbri -at- primenet -dot- com

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