SMEs and me (continued)

Subject: SMEs and me (continued)
From: Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- BENDER -dot- COM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 13:25:15 -0700


Christensen, Kent wrote:
>>re: ... yes, you do have to get along with him [SME], but no, you do
>>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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