Training/Tech manual combinations

Subject: Training/Tech manual combinations
From: Rick Lippincott <rjl -at- BOSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 11:56:37 EST

Julie Tollefson wrote:

>Our technical writing department has been asked to investigate the
>possibility of producing one document that meets training and reference
>needs.

I did something like that at my last job. The tech pubs manager was also
the training department manager, and so he strongly encouraged us to
prepare "common documents." This was for a high-energy device used in
semiconductor manufacturing procedures, both hardware and software
documentation was involved.

We found that it simply wasn't possible to produce one manual that met both
needs, for the following reasons:

1) The students need to know certain aspects of the equipment because they
are seeing it for the first time. This information isn't really relevant
to an operator who has even minimal experience.

2) The instructors need to present some highly technical information (such
as schematics) that are not used by the routine operator.

3) The operating manual has complex and detailed procedures that would
overwhelm the novice student.

Another disadvantage is that if the manual has to "serve two masters" you
will find that you're forced to revise and update it more often. There are
times when procedures change, and even though it may not impact the training
school the instructors still get a revised manual. On the other hand, a small
hardware change might not have been covered in the maintenance-driven
portions, but the instructors may have a valid need to show "all configurations"
of a system.

The compromise method that seemed to work best was the following: We writers
developed the manuals as needed for use by the actual equipment operators
and maintenance technicians. The instructors would review these manuals
and select procedures for inclusion in their training guides. They'd then
copy-n-paste our procedures and dumped them into new files used to create the
training guides (editing as needed). The instructors then developed their
own material for inclusion into the guides, resulting in a roughly 50/50
split of their material and ours.

Rick Lippincott
Boston Technology
Wakefield, MA
rjl -at- bostech -dot- com


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