Can project managers and technical writers get along?
I always make the point to Project Managers that Technical Writers are highly organised. They juggle numerous tasks and switch between them with ease. They also have great people skills working with coders, engineers, and technicians of various shades. In the meantime, they manage a ream of documentation while taking instructions from SMEs. Occasionally a project manager who has never had to consider technical documentation as part of a project offers advice.
The technical documentation component of a project does require 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 the project (because it’s documented), and better internal and external support through documentation.
If you are one of the many Project Managers who has never worked with Technical Writers, bear in mind that we are professionals. We will not tolerate the viability and quality of the technical documentation to satisfy the needs of others.
So, if you have no direct experience with documentation or Technical Writers consider the following:
- Take time to talk with your TW(s) because their experience will provide you with a much-needed background in document management.
- To help plan the documentation, avoid creating timelines as you progress the project.
- TWs cannot pull documentation from a hat or generate a document from code.
- Speak to the TW(s) to gauge how long it will take to review/write/edit a document. In my experience many project managers overestimate the timelines or worse underestimate the deadlines. Always build in flexibility to allow for problems in the documentation process
- Reviewing a document intended for transformation containing more than 20 pages plus will take time (the general rule of thumb is one hour per page).
- Time required for writing
- Peer reviews
- Time to have the content technically reviewed