Re: Telecommuting advice

Subject: Re: Telecommuting advice
From: Dave Whelan <agi259 -at- FREENET -dot- MB -dot- CA>
Date: Sun, 12 Oct 1997 15:54:59 -0500

Jennifer Rush asked for advice on running projects using telecommuting writers.

I think it is no different from running projects normally, but there is less
elbow room for sloppy management.

You have to apply good project management practices from the beginning. I
would recommend the process outlined in "Managing Your Documentation
Projects" by JoAnn T. Hackos. Develop a robust and comprehensive information
plan and content specification; write down all conceiveable problems
beforehand and iron out ways to deal with them if they occur; review and
revise planning documents regularly; break down all tasks into small, easily
checked chunks.

All business is based on trust, but it takes time and experience before you
can feel comfortable relying on someone you may never meet face-to-face.
Recruit experienced writers you can rely on. Start them off with small,
easily defined tasks and gradually give them more and more responsibilty as
your confidence in them rises. Do not waste time with writers you cannot
rely on: if you manage the project properly and everyone knows exactly what
is expected of them, you have to end the relationship with anyone who gives
you the slightest grief immediately it happens.

Keep control of your own formatting, at least initially. Ask for initial
drafts to be delivered in plain ascii text and do the formatting and DTP
yourself. That way you will get usable deliverables immediately. The most
important part of the job--extracting information from SMEs and transforming
that info into understandable text--will then be available in complete,
well-written passages. Have this work technically reviewed and approved
before handing out the next assignment. Arrange the project deliverables so
you are buying finished components one at a time.

Manage the project properly and telecommuting will work well for you. Good
luck and keep the list posted on your progress.

Dave Whelan, Technical Writer
Whelan Technical Services (204) 334-1339
mailto:agi259 -at- freenet -dot- mb -dot- ca

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