FW: Documentation Management

Subject: FW: Documentation Management
From: Lynn Perry <CLPerry -at- WALLDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 15:37:37 -0800


When you accepted the contract, what was the schedule at that point? This
may be the way to go about discussing the issue. I found myself in a similar
situation. I took a job that was scheduled for 6 weeks. It was putting
together a 200-page book from input from eight different subject-matter
experts (SMEs), each of whom had varying degrees of writing ability. They
wanted this thing printed and bound. I told them that printing schedule for
a book of 400 pages (which is what it had grown to by this point) was in the
neighborhood of 4 to 6 weeks. They assured me that the printing could be
done in the time they wanted.

It should have been a clue for me that no one else had even been interviewed
for this job. If my agency had been more aggressive in investigating the
actual job, I certainly would not have taken it. I thought it would be good
experience. Instead, I got a bit of the same kind of treatment you did. I
worked 14 and 16 hours for the entire 6 weeks. No one reviewed the whole
doc; I got only partial reviews of specific chapters. When the doc was
shipped to a "beta" group about 4 weeks into the project, they dinged me for
doc quality, format, content, coherence, grammar, etc.

It was an impossible job, and I just didn't have the experience to know it.
If I had it to do over, I wouldn't take the job to begin with.

On the other hand, I've had extremely tight deadlines and busy/uncooperative
SMEs. In some cases, I created content from what I could guess myself from
running the product or researching similar areas. Sometimes it has worked,
sometimes it hasn't (by "worked," I mean: "they thought the doc was great
and I was an invention on par with sliced bread;" by "not worked," I mean
"they thought the doc was terrible and I was a talentless imposter).

It's hard to say whether they could use your help (as the SME for doc) to
rethink their schedules and project scope or whether they already have their
minds made up and are moving you out. In any case, my advice is to get help
from managers or whoever else you can. Don't try to go it alone. If you
can't get the help you need, it may work to inform your hiring manager (or
whoever) that they may need someone else for the job. Personally, I've found
that not being able to complete a project is rarely one person's fault,
especially the doc developer.

Good luck.

C. Lynn Perry
clperry -at- walldata -dot- com
Opinions expressed are mine alone
Wall Data Incorporated, Seattle WA
Some days it doesn't pay to gnaw through the straps

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