Help needed for Damage Control - LONG

Subject: Help needed for Damage Control - LONG
From: "." <tina -at- SOFTTECH -dot- CO -dot- NZ>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 17:09:34 +-1200

Hello everyone! Popping out of lurk mode for the first time to welcome you to my

I'm currently in the middle of a very unpleasant situation. Over a month ago, as we
were nearing the end of our 2 year project, my company decided to employ an
experienced contractor (who shall remain nameless) to help speed up the Help writing
for the piece of software. The programmers kept putting in last minute functionality
(and still are >groan<) and I and the other techwriter were overwhelmed.

After looking at what we'd done, he said the base work was good and solid but the
execution wasn't. I agree - I've only been techwriting 5 years and I'd only trained to
do/produced hardcopy manuals. I've never had training or instruction in on-line work,
and learnt on the job as I was going. What eventuated isn't what I would do now (I like
to think I could do a hang of a lot better now).

Anyway - the contractor (who's been in the industry 14 years) sold us the idea of him
fast-tracking the entire process, and also transposing our ForeHelp file into a Doc2Help
file - the reasons being its non-propriety, easy to convert to hardcopy and PDF etc etc.
He said he would make it into a more logical on-line sequence, clean it up, make the
jumps less circuitous (they were), write bridging paragraphs, do screen dumps, re-
format the whole thing, etc. You get the idea...

In the meantime, Bevan and I would be writing the new functionality in Word instead of
'laboriously' writing and formatting it in ForeHelp (which is a program I like before all
you FH aficionados jump on me :-) And all this would take him a week or so. I gotta
admit I lapped it up - and so did my manager and my boss. As an example he did the
Tutorial (my boss wrote it and it was pretty grim) as he said above, and it was a nice
piece of work.

OK, well it's weeks later, and the project is due on 5th Sept. I leave next week & I'm
going overseas on 3rd Sept. I've escalated from monitoring to hassling him the last two
weeks but kept getting excuses - yes, it has got rather ugly a couple of time. I
received a copy (not the control file) of his work Monday, and the Help Doc file is still
only probably 2/3 transposed, with 2/3 the formatting and screendumps done, and
about 1/2 of the new additions and corrections done. The online Help is a mess - not
logical at all. I have given up on all this finally and got my manager (he has to listen to
her!) to tell him to bring in the control file tomorrow at 3pm come hell or high water.

I figure there's not much I can do to this guy (other than the obvious firebombing of his
house - hey it was a joke! honest!) as we've already paid 80% of his fee (I don't know
what it was thank the gods), so now I have to concentrate on DAMAGE CONTROL.
(whew! finally! you say)

I love my job (been here four years!) and don't want to go on such a bad note, leaving
them paddling up s##t creek with no oars ('course it also really peeves me off
something I've spent 2 years of my life on is about to hit the ground with an almighty
SPLAT). Lack of managership ability on my part aside (but hey, have I learnt a LOT in
the last few weeks! <sour grin>), what I want to know is, given the limited amount of
time I have, what can/should I do? Could I have some constructive suggestions (OK,
ANY suggestions) on what I can do for damage control in this situation. Please email
me direct. TVMIA.

Tina (Yes, I know I should have posted this last week) Nevin
tina -at- softtech -dot- co -dot- nz


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