Re: Reorganization Question

Subject: Re: Reorganization Question
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 08:29:42 PDT

Dan Martillotti writes:

>There is the potential problem of working for a manager that was a developer
>and who does not think highly of technical writers. This is not a problem,
>it is a challenge. You now have the opportunity to PROVE that technical
>writers have value. You get to PROVE that technical writers can make a
>difference. You get to PROVE that not everyone can write as well as they
>think they can.

>In addition, as you prove your worth to your boss and other team members,
>you earn their respect. Once you've earned their respect, it is much easier
>to get needed information and input from the developers. As a member of a
>pubs group, you are simply an outsider who is wasting the developers valuable
>time (perception).

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. While I've written microcode,
built UNIX kernels, debugged hardware, managed networks, and done plenty
of other he-man engineering tasks, the fact remains that my main
responsibility is to my readers, and many engineers simply do not
grasp the importance of the world outside the lab. My readers are not
real to them.

> While marketing has a vested interest in what is discussed in the
>documentation, they should never control it. All you would end up with
>would be a 200 page book of fluff.

This typifies the engineer's prejudice towards marketers. (Everyone
should work in a marketing department for a while. Even more so, everyone
should work in Sales. A stint in Production and Customer Service
doesn't hurt, either.)

I have never seen a "200-page book of fluff" created by a marketing
department. My experience is that marketers want technical documentation
because the sales force demands it (because the customers demand it).
While they want the right buzzwords to appear in chapter 1 (and
particularly in the bullet list on page 1), few marketers have any
great interest in the rest of the data book. Those who do are invariably
also engineers who are driving the definition of the product. Most
marketers know that they need the data book in order to sell the product,
and that a good one is better than a bad one. How to make a good one is
beyond them; they place their faith in hiring good people and in prayer.

>I think marketing should have input and should review the material, but
>they should never control the content.

Tech Pubs should control the content of technical documents. The Tech
Pubs group should be put under the control of someone very good, and then
left to make its own decisions. There's no point having anyone from
one discipline make day-to-day decisions on someone else's turf. That
would be a bonehead-level management error.

When I was managing a Tech Pubs department, I was the final-decision man.
I decided the scope, contents, budget, staffing, and style of each
document. Most people don't like these steps, and were glad to leave them
to me. Occasionally someone who was burned out in his own job would
decide to be a tech pubs diletantte and give me a lot of grief. There's
nothing like arguing commas and boldface with an engineer too burned out
to do his own job. But such people inevitably leave the company soon,
anyway, so you can start shopping for the "bon voyage" card as soon as
they start spending too much time in your cubicle.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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