Re: Centralized vs. Decentralized tech writers

Subject: Re: Centralized vs. Decentralized tech writers
From: Scott Wahl <swahl -at- BRIDGEWATERSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 16:08:25 -0400

Hi Heather,

We went through this at my previous company. We had been a single customer
documentation department since the company's inception. We were then split up
into various customer documentation groups reporting directly into our
respective R&D directors.

I much preferred the decentralized approach, but this view was by no means

Disadvantages of decentralization
- becomes harder to maintain company-wide standards (style, terminology, etc.)
- removes final arbitrator when various custdoc managers disagree
- can put custdoc groups at a disadvantage when fighting for resources

Advantages of centralization
- keeps documentation specialists closely integrated with R&D groups
- helps to foster co-operation between tech writers and other R&D groups
- have a more direct say in product development & project management
- encourages tech writers to focus on their contributions to larger R&D effort
- encourages doc groups to customize their work for the specific needs of their
audience and product: internal vs. external, hardware vs. software, different
markets, etc.

The decentralized approach works especially well if you already have a good
relationship between customer documentation and the rest of R&D, and you have
strong doc managers or senior writers who have the respect of their R&D peers
and can speak with some authority. In a decentralized situation, you also need
to continue some inter-group activities, such as a standards committee and
professional development forums.

My advice would be, rather than to centralize the tech writers in your company,
first set up a monthly meeting for technical writers to discuss issues of
common concern, standards, etc. You might find this provides all the support
you need.



Heather Ross wrote:

> I've searched the archives on this one and not found much. I work for a
> very large company. Currently, the tech writers here are scattered around.
> For example, I'm the only TW working in the IS area, which has 500 people
> in it and has a constant need for documentation.
> The company currently brings in contractors to do a fair bit of the
> documentation.
> The group of TWs here is currently looking at the benefits/drawbacks of
> organizing ourselves into one Technical Communications department. I'd be
> very interested in hearing about the experiences of you folks -- what do
> you see as the pros and cons of being centralized into one department,
> versus each being dedicated to one area of the company?
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==

Scott Wahl
Customer Documentation Coordinator
Bridgewater Systems Corporation
(613) 591-6655 x.2579

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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