Re: Managing Expectations

Subject: Re: Managing Expectations
From: Pete Kloppenburg <pkloppen -at- CERTICOM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 1997 13:58:43 -0400

Eric tabled the topic of expectation management.

I find that managing expectations counts among the biggest
non-writing tasks I have these days. I am the sole technical
writer at a $400 million company, and I manage and write the
documentation for 3, no, now 4 products.

Probably I'm in a minority position of having programmers as my
primary audience, and, as long as the docs are accurate and
somewhat usable, their expectations are easily met. What tends
to be the bigger challenge is setting expectations for my
corporate masters.

For a while that meant keeping schedules realistic and demands
for animated talking paper clips to a minimum. Now I find that
certain currents in the company's culture are downplaying the
importance of documentation. So now I'm trying to raise the
expectations for my documentation - I'm trying to convince people
that our docs can do more than simply provide a reference for
our software libraries. I'm trying to show them that docs can have
a powerful marketing function as well.

It's a dangerous game. I guess my contribution here is that
managing expectations can be not just a matter of keeping them
down, but also sometimes of keeping them up. If you manage
to get everybody to have very low expectations of documentation,
even if you exceed those expectations wildly each time, the net
effect can be to lower the percieved value of your docs across
the company, and that can be just about the worst thing that can
happen to your professionally in this business.


Pete Kloppenburg - pkloppen -at- certicom -dot- com
Technical Writer
Certicom Corp
Mississauga, Ontario,

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