RE: SMEs and me

Subject: RE: SMEs and me
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: 'TECHWR-L' <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 11:08:06 +0100

From: Christensen, Kent [mailto:lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov] wrote:
>> The tech writer's customer is always the SME. The external customer
belongs to the
>> SME, i.e., the team or person designing the product. I don't think this
>> varies from company to company.

Many companies do operate using this management theory: that instead of
regarding the whole company as a team, individual departments within the
company are buying services from each other. This is a convenient
accountancy tool, but not necessarily a good management system.

If as a tech writer I am not responsible to the end-user but only to my
internal "customer", the SME, then I don't need to make my documentation
acceptable to the person who will actually use it, but only to the person
who designed the product. The theory is that the person who designed the
product is the best judge of what documentation will be acceptable and
useful to the end-user of the product. (What you might call a "trickle-down"
quality system.)

I have worked under both systems, and I definitely prefer the team concept
to the customer concept: that both tech writer and tech developer are
working together as a team to create a useable product.

From: Christensen, Kent [mailto:lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov] wrote:
>> Pretty naive statement, I'd say. Whatever happened to "the customer is
>> always right?" Sounds like the motor vehicle department.

>Silver, Steven H wrote:
>When I was working in retail, I quickly learned, and tried to teach my
>employees, that the customer is emphatically NOT always right.

Customers always have to be listened to, and heard, and (if you want to
*keep* customers) they have to believe that you have paid attention and that
their views are important to you.

The customer *isn't* always right: but the customer is always worth paying
attention to. (I like to remember this when I'm being a demanding customer

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Compaq, UK
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.

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