Re: Marketing Intervention (long)

Subject: Re: Marketing Intervention (long)
From: Rebecca Phillips <Rebecca -at- QRONUS -dot- CO -dot- IL>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 09:16:33 +0200


The technical writing department is frequently in the middle of
conflicts between R&D and marketing. Part of our job is to understand
the perspectives of both the technical and the marketing departments and
compose a document to answer both needs. The situation you have
described is classic.

Regarding the covers, if they are really ugly, you should suggest ways
to change them. You should gently insist that next time style changes
are implemented, it would be appropriate that you participate in the
decision-making process rather than having the decisions thrust upon
you. However, keep this in mind. You are responsible for the clarity and
organization of the document, the SMEs are responsible for technical
accuracy, and marketing is responsible for "image". That can include
product naming and style issues. The techies may call the product Whizmo
Version 3.043 but if the marketers call it SuperWhizmoPlus 1.0, you have
to use the marketing name in the customer documents. Same goes with
covers. It really is marketing's call. They *should* have consulted you.
They *should* have used a graphic artist you recommend. But they didn't
and they still have every right to change the covers.

If there is speculation that you might move to the marketing department,
you had better play your hand carefully. Be firm that you should have
been consulted; make them feel that it would have been the right thing
to do. At the same time, don't project yourself as a troublemaker.

Regarding where Documentation "belongs", this, too is a classic
question. The answer is: you would rather be where the money is.
Marketing tends to have a lot of money for things like graphics and HTML
designers and fun stuff like that. R&D departments think pretty pictures
are a waste of time and money. They would rather have you do system
engineering work like writing internal design specifications. (If you
like that, then you'd rather be in R&D.)

Of course, the real answer is: it doesn't matter where you would rather
be, since you are going to be moved around without your input. (If they
don't even ask you about the book covers, why would they ask you
something really important?) You should just try to make the best of it.
In some ways, marketing people are easier to get along with than
technical folks. They just have a different orientation. You sound like
you are more technically-oriented, so you will have to get used to a
different style of working. However, the bottom line is that your input
comes from the R&D staff, so the work process won't change
significantly. If they are moving you to marketing, figure out the
reason. It is probably connected to the fact that marketing thinks
documentation can be better (Marketing always thinks they can do it
better, but so does R&D). Take advantage of the situation. Hit them up
for a bigger budget, more staff, Macintoshes, whatever it is that you
think you can convince them will make the documentation everything they
ever dreamed of (They will believe you if you make it in a pretty slide
presentation or GANTT chart. They probably don't know squat about
documentation, but neither did R&D).

If you really don't want to have to stay in marketing, hit them with
hard reviews of documents, particularly reference materials.
Over-consult. Ask them how they want things organized, send them
outlines and long documents about the Documentation Development
Processes and how they could be implemented more efficiently. Give them
sign-off sheets for approving documents and documentation processes.
Make it seem like keeping you will be a lot of extra work they don't
want. Of course, do it all naturally and with a smile, as if this is how
everything always was done.

But most of all, know you are not alone. I know of one documentation
manager who said that within one year she had been under the
responsibility of every department manager in the company. It didn't
matter to her, though, because she just kept writing in accordance with
the product needs. If you are doing your work, you'll be fine wherever
they put you. Be prepared for some changes, and make the most of them.

Good luck.


Rebecca M. Phillips
Documentation Manager
Qronus Interactive Ltd., Automated System Testing
14 Shabazi Street, Yahud 56231 Israel
rebecca -at- qronus -dot- co -dot- il
Phone: 972-3-5392207

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