RE: SMEs and me

Subject: RE: SMEs and me
From: "MacLemale, Laura A. (LNG-MBC)" <Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 11:50:33 -0400


Christensen, Kent wrote:
>>re: ... yes, you do have to get along with him [SME], but no, you do not
>>have to do things his way (unless your boss tells you so)
>>Pretty naive statement, I'd say. Whatever happened to "the customer is
>>always right?" Sounds like the motor vehicle department. The tech
>>customer is always the SME. The external customer belongs to the SME,
>>the team or person designing the product. I don't think this formula
>>from company to company.

Sierra responded:
> My SME (engineer) does not care at all about the customer, and it
has fallen
>to me to make sure our external customer receives information that is
readable and
>understandable. If the engineer had had his way, the information would have
been like he
>wrote it: understandable only to him, since it was little more than a quick
outline of
>the software.

This is an interesting thread. It's always enlightening to hear about other
tech writers' experiences with SMEs. However, I agree with Sierra that the
tech writer is a step closer to the external customer than the SME, at least
in my department.

I tend to think of myself as a user advocate, and someone who represents the
end users' voice throughout the development process. Granted, our voice is
not always actively sought out by SMEs, and sometimes it becomes necessary
for us to make sure that we are heard--but it's all in the name of the end
user. (Some of you may think this attitude seems a bit simplistic. But
simplistic or not, this attitude is helpful when collecting the information,
outlining user tasks, and assembling everything into a final document.)

That is not to assume that the SME or anyone else involved in the
development process is neglecting the end user, or that the tech writer is
the end user's knight in shining armor. It just seems to me that, since we
are sometimes the first in-house users of the alpha software and since we
outline tasks and write the initial procedures, that we are one step closer
to the end user just by virtue of the entire process.

Again, my opinions are based upon my personal experiences (specific to the
software industry). I understand that doc departments in other companies may
follow different procedures in procuring information. Some of you seem to
have initial procedures or specs provided by SMEs, and so your perception of
the entire process may differ from mine. It seems that it is not accurate to
make broad sweeping generalizations across the industry.

That is why I find this thread so informative, as it's providing insight
into the way other doc departments operate.

Happy Friday,

Laura A. MacLemale
Technical Communications Coordinator
Matthew Bender, part of LEXIS Publishing
1275 Broadway
Albany, NY 12204
Phone (518) 487-3465
Fax (518) 487-3681
Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com

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