Re: Reporting structure

Subject: Re: Reporting structure
From: Kathryn Marshall <kmarshall -at- MODACAD -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1998 15:17:43 -0700

> >That is, your first level manager is outside of the TW group (a
> >Product Manager, Tech Support Manager, Manager of Engineering
> >Marketing Manager, etc.). If so, do you have a team leader, or does
> >writer report individually to the outside manager? Does the size of
> >Tech Pubs group have anything to do with this?
> >What are the pitfalls of such a scenario? Is the visibility and/or
> credibility of your group affected in any way? Do you feel >that your
> outside manager understands your needs and concerns and is a
> >reliable advocate for your group?

This is how it used to be at my company (small software company, ~100
employees). I started as the Lone Tech Writer. At the time I reported to
the QA Manager and we had about 40 employees. Keep in mind this company
had never had a tech writer before and basically didn't know where a
writer fit in. Both QA and Doc fall under the umbrella of Engineering.
Over the 2 years that I've been here, we hired 3 more writers at my
request. I also wrote a proposal to create a Documentation Dept (using
very helpful advice from some fellow techwhirlers); part of the proposal
stated that I should also be the Doc Manager.

The proposal was half accepted. I was made the manager, but didn't
really control the doc schedules. Writers still reported to the
Development Manager for their product team -- even me, since I was still
working on doc projects. We learned the hard way with that structure --
work was not completed on time and doc quality really suffered. The main
problem was that the Development Managers had no clue how to manage
writers -- schedules were not tracked closely and manuals weren't
reviewed thoroughly. I have FINALLY managed to take on the role I
originally envisioned: I control the schedules. Internal customers
(Product Managers, Devel. Managers) come to me with documentation
requests and I assign people accordingly.

This works out better for many reasons:
--It's easier to track writers' schedules and make sure projects get
done on time.
--It's easier to allocate resources for new projects or projects that
need help.
--It's easier to enforce our documentation standards and styles.
--Doc Department has a voice within the company.
--I CARE -- I care about the quality of the doc and am committed to
making it the best that it can be. I see to it that writers get training
when neede, that their goals are being met, and that they are motivated
about their work. I think this unique perspective can only come from a
manager who is a writer --- or at least someone who's worked with
writers before.

I report to the Director of Engineering. Sometimes I wish I had the
amount of support and guidance from him that might come from a writer,
but he's trying. He understands the importance of documentation
(quality, usability, etc.!) which is a big help.

I was in the same dilemma as you less than a year ago. I posted my
questions and concerns to the list and wound up writing that proposal.
As you can see, everything turned around for the better.

Sorry for the long-winded reply,

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