Getting To Know Your Technical Writing Department (Part 2)

Sections of this topic

    This is the second part of the post ‘Getting To Know Your Technical Writing Department’. We have read what questions need to be asked regarding Projects, Writing, and Collaboration. Now we need to see how documents are reviewed, stored, what tools are used to produce the documentation, how the works are distributed and how we can make improvements.

    Review – Define the review process

    · Are there style guides they follow and who maintains it
    · Is there a standard logo for each document?
    · Who reviews their work
    · Who edits their work
    · How are changes reviewed
    · Is there a process for reviewing, editing, and rewriting
    · Estimate the turnaround time for each new revised work
    · Who tests out the documents for accuracy (note by individuals, department, and project)
    · How do you get feedback from users (clients, developers, SMEs, customer service, etc.,)
    · How do you get feedback from content on the web

    Storage – Keeping track of the documents

    · Where and how are the documents stored
    · Is there a schema where all legacy documents are kept
    · Is there a methodology that is followed to stay organized, or is there an existing content management system that maintains new and revised documents
    · Where are confidential documents stored?
    · Do we index or tag our documents
    · Are any processes automated

    Tools – Our tool sets

    · What tools do they use to produce their documentation
    · Get a break down of what tools each writer uses and their expertise in them
    · What tools would they like to have
    · Are some of the current tools that are too challenging for some

    Distribution – Distributing the documents

    · Is there a process in place for distributing completed and revised documents
    · Who gets the newly completed documents and how many are produced and who takes care of that process

    Global – Standardizing it all

    · Who are the global contacts
    · How do we virtually connect with them
    · Is there a process in place for ensuring that all documentation standards are met
    · Where are all the terms defined so that we are all on the same page for terminology
    · How are files exchanged
    · How are updates made

    Improvement – Empathize with your writers

    · Do they have any ideas for improvement
    · Do they feel overworked
    · Are they writing for more than one project at a time
    · How long have they worked as technical writer on particular tasks
    · Do they feel stagnant and would they like to switch gears and write for some other projects

    When you have reviewed all this information (I know it’s quite a lot), and have analyzed your mapping or matrix, you will be able to make adjustments where necessary. Pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses are. As with documentation, make sure everything you need to know about the department is standardized, controlled, and structured. All this work will help you get a clearer picture of your departments’ Technical Writers functions, the departments’ performance, and where improvements are needed.