SME Trouble

Subject: SME Trouble
From: Eileen Foran <eenie -at- IDT -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 1997 11:46:30 +0000

Regarding an SME who does not respond to a writer's inqueries:

One of my solutions is to do weekly status reports. I have separate sections in the status
reports, called Tasks, Concerns, and Next Week. Tasks, of course, include all the tasks
I completed that week. Concerns covers any conflicts I had getting the work done
(including system crashes, lack of response to my queries, lack of response to deadlines
I created, etc.) Next week includes all the tasks I plan to complete the following week.

The status reports go to my SME, my account manager, and anyone other writer or
manager to whom I am responsible. This way, there is NEVER a surprise if the
documentation lags significantly behind the development. It also provides, in writing, the
areas of trouble I had throughout a project.

I always suggest to my client before a project begins that I will complete status reports to
ensure that the client has a tally of my work through the project. The client ALWAYS
says yes to a status report, because it makes my productivity or lack thereof apparent
pretty quickly. What it ALSO does, however, is to give me a subtle way to report lack of
cooperation, conflicts, etc. It is a great "cover your butt" tool.

Also, whenever I need some feedback from my client, I give a reasonable deadline and a
note that says something like this:

"Please respond by the afternoon of March 3. There are open questions in this
documentation (marked in red) that only you can answer, so please respond to each

If I do not hear from you by the afternoon of March 3, I will assume that all content is to
your liking and no further changes are to be made. The open questions posed in the
documentation will remain and will be printed as they stand now.

If you have any questions or conflicts with the March 3 deadline, please respond to this
memo by the end of the day on Wednesday, February 26."

If I don't hear anything by the deadline I imposed, I will include that in the Concerns
section of my status report. If the situation is serious, as the one above would be, I will
also call a meeting or talk to my boss immediately.

This method usually works, because it makes the SME responsible, in writing, and no
one wants to look uncooperative or incapable.

It doesn't always work, however. It has also had absolutely no effect on one client. In
this situation, I simply said:

"I am doing the best I can do to make the documentation for this project complete and
accurate, but in the end, you are the source of knowledge about your industry, so you
decide whether or not you want the documentation to include my "guesses" as to how
XYZ works. You are the client, and it is your call."

Anyway, that's how I handle these sorts of situations. I have been called "irrepressibly
enthusiastic" by one client, but that's okay. Our job is to write good documentation, and
if that means stirring things up a little, so be it.

I hope this helps.

Eileen Foran

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