There is a decision doc managers need to make all the time: balance savings today against expenses tomorrow; balance constantly patching a doc with tearing the whole thing down and starting anew. My solution to fixing my fence was the exact same I would have taken to patching a doc.
Scrum, the new development methodology in the Agile development family, is fast gaining acceptance in software development. But how can writers, who have little or no experience in any of the incremental development models, adjust to this methodology? And, how does the Documentation Development Life Cycle (DDLC) change in Scrum?
The non-writer who takes over the documentation can act like a bull in a China closet, copying and pasting from Word, mixing styles, not understanding the setup, basically wrecking the consistency, the bullet levels, the formatting. If you see the documentation later and find that the client has added steps without numbers, included text that breaks every rule in the style guide, won’t that be unnerving? Yes, it will make you want to jump out the window.
In this article, we outline how IT analysts can effectively make determinations about the value of process documentation, and in the process, transform a potential scourge into a possible blessing.
Sometimes our developers are just a bit too eager. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does, it takes us Technical Writers by surprise. One such occasion happened today when the first build was created for the next release of one of our applications. No real issue there, but when they came to us half an hour after the build process completed to say the help didn’t look right, we went to investigate.
Keeping track of a technical writing team’s time can be a tedious task, especially when that time has to be charged to various internal departments. Using Lotus Notes™ (Lotus Development Corporation and Iris Associates, Inc.), we developed a relational database to track this information. This database uses a single form for all documentation status inputs. Then it summarizes the data in a variety of view. Separate forms track SEI statistics and simplify department employee time administration.
Short deadlines force project teams to quickly design, test, and release the product with little or no design documentation. If these documents are written, they generally are not well-written and are not comprehensive. The fact of the matter is that most project teams do not have enough staff to design the product, let alone write and manage documentation. This situation creates an ideal opportunity for technical writers to assist the project team in more ways than writing a user guide.
The use of three simple tools can assist the documentation manager, from start to finish, on any new project. A revamped pubs plan, a new concept with engineering worksheets, and a matrix of modularized information are all utilized with a slightly new twist. The Pubs Plan is redefined to help you launch your project with a team approach, identifying issues, and proposing solutions. The Engineering Worksheets list all the critical pieces of information your writers/illustrators need for each component of the product. These pieces of information are then tracked by completion date on an Information Matrix. These documents work together as complimentary management tools that can be easily developed and scaled to the complexity of any project.
During this session, we will learn how to create a topic list to determine project scope, and then we will begin to calculate how long it will take produce all of these topics. When we’re done, you will have a methodology for doing this for your own project.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)–2000 Edition is the main sourcebook in the project management field. Whilst it covers Project Communications Management, it doesn't extend to user documentation. This article seeks to provide guidance for project managers as to how the user documentation process fits in with the overall project planning. It examines: the traditional way documentation is approached and how it impinges on project planning the effects of making changes to this traditional approach.
A methodology for developing high-quality software developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University can also be applied to developing technical publications. This workshop addresses several aspects of this methodology using various project management techniques. By bringing your development process under better control, these techniques will ensure a more uniform quality in your publications.
Keeping information metrics for documentation projects gives managers the ability to more accurately estimate future projects. Publications departments can develop their own tools or they can use existing tools to track such things as page size, hours-per-page spent writing, illustrating, editing, and producing manuals; and the dependencies of each manual. This kind of information can help to determine development schedules, show how late changes affect the documentation process, and accurately determine what it will take to complete quality documentation on time and within budget.
It's in the numbers. Creating documentation is not an exact science, yet as communication leaders, we are expected to provide real estimates for how much time we need to document a project, or what we can produce given a predetermined timeline.
While company budgets are increasing little or none, the responsibilities of technical writers continue to multiply as they are expected to produce online help as well as hard-copy documentation in short time periods. This demonstration explains how technical writers at Computer Power, Inc. produce usable online and hard-copy documentation from one source file. Participants will learn how to plan the file, create appropriate graphics, and use macros to convert text and other information for use in online help.
Not all documents require a full lifecycle, but if you understand the nature of building documents, you will be better able to plan for the time required to complete them successfully.
This video on simplifying business, using the metaphor of organising a children’s party, made me smile and consider how successful documentation projects are managed. The presenter is suggesting managers need to, in complex systems, give up rigid control from above. Instead, they should watch for organisational patterns, encouraging the good and discouraging the bad.
A “doc sprint” is similar to a book sprint. We called ours a doc sprint because it focused on technical documentation and on developing a set of tutorials, rather than a single book. We invited a number of developers to join the technical writing team in a three-day sprint, with the aim of producing some quality tutorials on gadget and plugin development.
In my project portfolio, our release manager—the one who instituted release scrums—wants to standardize on release notes across applications. Many of the projects are in a maintenance period, so releases are planned for each project every month or two on something of a rotating basis. These releases will include small enhancements and bug fixes. One of the challenges of standardizing on release notes is coming up with a release notes process that can efficiently turn out these documents within about a week.
Professional business writers, such as technical authors, typically break a document down into small, discrete units of information, organised around a skeleton of topic headings. If you use this 'component' or 'modular' approach, you can plan and structure the document using the heading 'labels' that describe each section.
Get to know your new teammates. Get to know your audience. Define the product's features. Create a mockup of the user interface. Begin to document the features and interface.