Re: writers to programmers ratio

Subject: Re: writers to programmers ratio
From: Matthew Stern <MAStern -at- PLATSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 09:22:00 -0800

This is in response to Amram:

>What is the optimal ratio of TWs to engineering staff?
>The product (a rather complex tool for internet programming)
>is due to be released in six months. No real documentation
>exists. I suggested that they hire two TWs (me and my buddy).
>They responded, "uh, don't think so...too much money. How
>'bout just you?"
>My instincts say, jog away from this one, 'casue these guys
>don't have a clue vis-a-vis the doc. process.

Before you do any jogging, meet with the people in charge of the project
and find out the scope of their documentation requirements and their

Once you know the amount of work, you can then estimate how many hours
are required to complete the project. It's the number of hours that will
tell you how many people are required to work on the project. The ratio
of writers to engineers is not important. If you find you need to spend
something like 90 hours a week to do the project, you have good
justification for getting another writer to help you.

You also need to arrange with the project leads other resources for
completing the project. The leads should have their engineers give time
to help you with research and reviews. You also need to arrange time in
the schedule for graphics, layout, and printing. Also consider other
contractors you may need. You might talk to the leads about contacting
an editor, or you might need a contract illustrator or page designer.
Some of these items are negotiable, but you need to let the leads know
what they will give up in terms of schedule or quality by passing on
certain items.

These discussions will give you a good idea of whether the company is
one you want to work with or not. Usually, if you've done your homework,
and you can justify your requirements with numbers and dates, potential
clients are willing to listen to you. If they are as "clueless" as you
say they are, you have a chance to educate them. If they are unwilling
to listen, if they have firmly held but grossly incorrect views of
documentation that they're not willing to change, if they are
uncooperative, or if they just seem to be a poorly run and misguided
organization, jog away.

Matthew Stern
Sr. Technical Writer
Platinum Software Corporation

E-mail: mastern -at- platsoft -dot- com

The opinions here are solely my own.

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