The quality of project management has a direct impact on technical documentation, a fact project managers overlook . This article looks at the areas where the relationship between project management and technical documentation intersect.
Put a plan around a project or a project around a plan
Technical documentation will suffer if the project is floundering without a project plan. A document project without a plan is always at risk of failure. There is a tendency by those with no documentation experience to change the goalposts and and add to the project because in many cases they did not listen to the experience and advice of their technical Writer.
While documentation cannot compensate for the lack of a plan, it can help to revive a troubled project. This method of catching up through documentation will extend timelines, but will serve the project better by mitigating risks and strengthening the overall product through documentation analysis.
An experienced technical writers can certainly find their frustration peaking when the project timeline isn’t workable, or the Project Manager fails to listen to advice. THis happens when:
- working with staff members who have no experience working with documentation and assume its an easy straightforward task
- unworkable deadlines that sacrifice documentation quality and lead to frustration among internal parties
It is worth bearing in mind the following:
- when scheduling technical documentation tap into the TAs knowledge to help plan the timeline for documentation.
- Writing or migrating content is not an instantaneous process; a failure to work with the writers could led to counter productive problems.
- If the timeline is genuinely tight, develop a list of documentation priorities in order for users to adopt the product.
A typical breakdown for a technical writing project includes:
- Research time to learn the project and other elements, such as the underlying technology and related issues required for the documentation effort.
- Dedicated time for writing.
- Dedicated time for editing. copy editing and editing for style, clarity, and other issues.
- Dedicated time to review the technical accuracy of the documentation. Never assume that a document is correct. Always create review time for accuracy by SMEs.
Allow sufficient ramp-up time
Technical writers need sufficient ramp-up time to become versed in the product. While ramp-up time is relative depending on the writer, a project manager can support the writer:
- Provide ready access to necessary hardware and software so the technical writer doesn’t have to waste time waiting on equipment required for documentation projects.
- Provide the necessary system access, usernames, and passwords.
Allow technical writers ramp-up time is more than a learning curve; it’s having the resources in place so they can perform their jobs with minimal downtime, which is billable when they are on-site waiting for corporate bureaucracies to deliver the resources they need.
Review the reviewers
While technical writers must have a stake in the technical accuracy of the documentation they produce, there is often a need for technical reviewers to review the documentation. Take into account this review time in the overall project schedule, including:
- Scheduled time for technical staff, project managers, and other reviewers to go over the documentation.
- Time for the technical writers to add the revisions to the documentation.
Can project managers and technical writers get along?
The documentation component of a project requires input from technical writers to help ensure quality technical documentation. A working collaboration between project managers and technical writers can help organisations reap the benefits of better design (because it’s documented), and better customer support through documentation. A self-sufficient customer who doesn’t call customer support is like money in the bank for your company.