TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Devr. wants to take over doc.--some history From:"Wilcox, John (Contractor)" <wilcoxj -at- WDNI -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 30 Apr 1997 09:22:00 -0700
NOTICE: INFORMATION GIVEN IN THIS MESSAGE IS FOR USE ONLY BY LIST
MEMBERS, SO THAT YOU CAN GIVE RELEVANT ADVICE. SOME OF THIS INFORMATION
IS PROBABLY COMPANY-CONFIDENTIAL, SO DON'T PASS IT ON TO ANYONE. JUST
DELETE AFTER RESPONDING. ANY REPRODUCTION OF THIS MATERIAL IS
PROHIBITED...etc. You know the routine. Thanx.
From: Eric J. Ray
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Subject: Re: Developer wants to take over documentation
What's the real story here -- are the developers trying
to cut the time they spend providing information,
change the direction or focus of the docs, assume
complete control/power in the project, or ???
At the rough cut and without knowing the political
situation and structure, I'd say that you should
either maintain full editorial control and veto power
over their docs, or abdicate all responsibility whatsoever
for their docs. If they're doing and you're fixing, you're
not going to have much fun at all. ;-)
What do the QC people think of this idea? Tech support?
Users? Do the developers have any idea what they're asking
for? Or is that what you'll be telling them on Friday?
Can you provide any more info?
Okay, a little history is in order here. Weyerhaeuser is divided
fiscally into business units. Each "business" "buys" and "sells"
services from others just as from an outside business. Timberlands
Information Services (TIS) provides information technology and support
to the other businesses. Most of the software we provide is
forestry-related. Some is used at nurseries (we grow zillions of
trees), some is used by timber cruisers doing forest inventory (gotta
figure how much lumber is gonna be there in the future), some is used at
log scaling yards (uh, yes, we do harvest the occasional tree), etc.
Some software is purchased from third parties, but most is produced by
the Application Delivery group (AD). There are about 21 programmers in
AD. A few of them work in another state.
Some quality-minded programmers finally convinced management that the
documentation being provided was inadequate (understatement of the
decade) and that the service of a professional documentation person was
in order. Hence, I was hired as a contract TW about 15 months ago. The
docs I have produced here have gotten rave reviews by the developers,
management, and end users, and they understand my value to the company.
Previous to my coming on board, all documentation was done by
programmers. Between the programmer and the end user are 4 Geographic
Service Providers (GSPs). The GSPs provide software training (since the
docs can't be interpreted by the end users) and tech support. For
smaller apps, the programmer doubles as a tech support person. There is
no dedicated tech support dept.
It is a few of these small-app programmers, who formerly documented
[sic] their own software, who now want to take my manuals and do
periodic updates to them to reflect enhancements in the software.
Actually, they first just wanted to be able to print extra copies if
needed. I explained that they could not do the covers and binding, that
I could not guarantee the copy would look the same when printed from
their copy of Word to their printer, that I could give them 1-day
turnaround, and that they could just order extra copies (they only have
a few customers for each app). Then they added the enhancement issue.
Attached below are the main two messages they've sent me about this.
Read for yourself and let me know what you think. I know this is long;
thanks for listening and responding.
John Wilcox, Documentation Specialist
Timberlands Information Services
Weyerhaeuser, WWC 2E2
Tacoma, WA 98477-0001
206-924-7972 wilcoxj -at- wdni -dot- com
Micky (not his real name) says:
While John does excellent work for me (his customer), it is the support
of TIS' customers that I have issue with. IF I am not able to support
my customers (TIS' customers) in the best manner available it is my
customer service rating (and TIS' rating) that suffers (not John's).
I foresee several things impacting my (TIS') customer support and I
these to be the issue at hand, not my personal flex of domination.
1) One day turn-around on John's part is great, and I trust that he
could get the document printed on the same day I ask. However, mail
service (whether John or I mail it) of the document will add at least
two days to the time my customer has a document in-hand.
Alternative: utilize the LAN and WON that Weyerhaeuser installed at
great expense. Benefit to Weyco: This Electronic alternative will
allow my customers to have the document in minutes. Eliminate a need
for inventory (a fire hazard in my office). And, increase/maintain
2) What do I do If John is not available (busy with other projects or
priorities) to upgrade the document before I release the software?
Alternative: An Electronic document that is available and updatable to
Benefit: Remove unnecessary bottle-neck in process. Minimize upgrade
turn-around. Increase/ maintain Customer satisfaction. And, would allow
Web site access to the document.
If these arguments do not have any merit toward improving or maintaining
a high level of customer satisfaction, then John can keep and maintain
ultimate control on all TIS documents (who would voluntarily want to do
documentation, except John!).
Minnie (not her real name) says:
It appears we have a divided consensus on location of documentation. I
would like to add my opinion.
I create version updates approximately every two months with changes in
functionality to the application I administer. In order to update and
supply my customers with a current users guide, I choose not to use
John as a resource for the original document if I cannot maintain the
John, you are not aware of our work environment being at a remote
location, or I don't believe you would question our need to have