RE: Is this just the way things are?

Subject: RE: Is this just the way things are?
From: "Brad" <kiwi -at- best -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "Catherine Scribner" <cscribner -at- netscape -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 10:41:14 -0800

> 1. Technical feasibility of a tool for Help creation is determined after a
> decision to use that tool has been made.

Who is making the decision to use the tool? Someone in the Tech Pubs
department or someone (like Product Development) from outside of Tech Pubs?
I work at a company where the product development engineers *twice* made
decisions on implementing the online Help, and *twice* they totally left out
Tech Pubs staff (at that time I was the entire Tech Pubs department) from
any planning or discussions. These engineers could not comprehend or
acknowledge why they should include me (the online Help developer/Tech
Writer) in their planning and decision making regarding Help.

> 2. Technical implementation is delegated to a person who has not been able
> produce acceptable results in more than six months.

This sounds like your Tech Pubs manager is making these bad decisions?

> 3. The approved design of the Help system is constantly changing,
> depending on whom one speaks with.

This suggests poor management.

> 4. In a recent release of the product, content about how to use the Help
> system was incorrect and nobody seems to know who put the content in the
> product.

This is the primary area where you have to come into agreement with the
engineers to put the hooks into the code with appropriate reference keys.
Does your Help development tool not come with documentation on how to engage
Help with the product?

> Is this just the way things are in software companies? A colleague tells
> that the industry is too young to have been able to attract managers that
> know anything about management.

This is sometimes true, but your case sounds more extreme than others I have
heard of. I just spent several months interviewing candidates for the Tech
Pubs manager position. It was really shocking to see the range and quality
of candidates who thought that they could be Tech Pubs manager. Since it was
a combo Manager/Writer position, I reviewed their writing samples too.
Easily a third of the candidates could not even write at the level of a very
green junior writer.

> Is bad management just the price one pays for working in this industry?

No. When you interview for the job, you need to be thorough in asking the
various people at the company how the processes run, how different
departments work together, what kind of problems do they encounter and how
they solve them.

When I interview candidates, I expect the interview process to be a two-way
street. A candidate who asks nothing or very little *suggests* to me that
the candidate isn't being very thorough or careful in finding a good company
to work for. That's a two-way street too!


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