More regarding help Project Management, and other stuff (LONG)

Subject: More regarding help Project Management, and other stuff (LONG)
From: Susan Brown <sbrown -at- JSCSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 15:45:11 -0500

Hi, Hi!!

First of all, many thanks to all who have responded to my original
post so far.

The range of responses indicate that I should fill in a few blanks.

I am the sole documentation person in a firm of about 30 employees
(all programmers, excepting one admin person) that does exclusively
telecommunications consulting work. We are working on some MAJOR projects
for the really big players in Canadian Telecommunications (primarily STENTOR).

I started work for this firm in November. I was barely able to get
15 hours worth of work a week until the end of February because nobody was
willing to bring me up to date on the (extant) projects, or let me know
what, if any, documentation would be required. (The view was that it would
take more time than it was worth, or than they had.)

I was finally brought in on the project I previously wrote about
roughly a month ago. The requirements are for both user and detailed system
documentation, all on line. At that time I was asked for a time estimate,
which I gave, and, when they regained consciousness, I was told that was not
possible. Then I was told that I would have to document the system by
'playing' with the software: none of the developers were available to talk
with me AT ALL. I was not allowed access to source files (certainly
important when trying to produce technical and maintenance documentation if
the developers are 100% not available.)

Everyone is VERY pleased with what they have seen so far (I was
required to produce a prototype of the system within one week of starting -
but I won't get into that), but is utterly unconvinced that I really needed
even the amount of time I have taken to date, let alone what I offered as a
bare minimum for something that was marginally acceptable, as opposed to
even fair. (The ugly $ Monster continually rears it's ugly head.)

It strikes me that one of the major problems is that the time
allotted (in the accepted bids on these contracts) for documentation is
totally unrealistic. An extremely complicated piece of software that took a
team of 6 people over 18 months to develop is supposed to require less than
6 weeks from one person (working in a vacuum) to produce complete on-line
documentation (including user's guide, context sensitive help, and detailed
system specifications). But I am stuck with the legacy: the bids were made
and accepted on these terms, and the money just ain't there to do more.

My resume has been brushed up, but I hate giving in or giving up. (I
have this stupidly stubborn streak.)

I am starting to think that the question I should have asked is not
"How would you manage this project?", but, rather, "How do you convince
people that what you do takes time?" (I am stunned by the number of times to
date I have been asked to attend meetings solely for the purpose of
producing minutes. I am generally viewed as an overpriced stenographer,
rather than a skilled professional.)

That was all rather long, and I apologize, but this situation is
getting chronic. Also, I have nowhere else to turn.

Susan Brown
JSC Systems Corp.

"Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you
come to the end: then stop."
- Lewis Carroll

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