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© 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved. Case Study: Real Lessons for Technical Writing Projects… or… Why a TWENTY hour project took ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY HOURS!
Case Study Details Hi-tech company in Israel Project: Engineering document (“100 or so pages” “mostly editing” “we’ll give you all the information”) Estimate…what estimate? 20 hours Firm deadline…no buffer © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
First Meeting – Client Description Met lead engineer and product manager Shown a 100 page requirements document Told to produce 100 pages of text Told it was “mostly editing” Lead engineer: “20 hours” for him to do it Deadline 6 days later (10 hour days? 60 hours?) Leaving 7 days for printing and compiling 3 days for overnight/2 day deliver Company authorized 40 hours © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
First Meeting – Our Thoughts Too much information was missing Unclear what they wanted beyond editing Lead engineer didn’t really understand documentation Pressured to begin the work w/o outline/estimate 6 days later (10 hour days? 60 hours maximum) © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
What Wasn’t Done at the First Meeting Outline of the project Clear understanding of WHO would assist us Wrong file delivered to us International agency requirements were poorly written…then interpreted by company’s engineers (incorrectly) Several different engineers were given pieces of the requirements document – no lead on their side assigned © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Lesson One Plan ahead! Define – ● WHO are the contact people ● WHAT responsibility each person has ● WHAT are the deliverables (format, contents) ● WHEN must they deliver (deadlines) ● WHAT will YOU be responsible for © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Don’t underestimate the important of estimating Normal project requirements: outline and estimate This project: no outline (mistake?) © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Making an Estimate Have an SME SHOW you the product Take your time (count the windows, menus, questions, and calculate length and time for each) Don’t forget the extras (TOC, index, layout) Include a buffer – always unknown factors, additional review cycles, unrevealed features Be prepared to walk away © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Outline Should Include: List of sections Reference to existing materials List of contact people (related to sections) Amount of pages (topics) How long it should take (hours/days) Minimal in content © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Why Do You Need an Outline? So everyone agrees on content Standing record Measure of what needs to be done/what was done/ what remains Bottom line: good chance of success with; good chance of failure without © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Assess the Materials On Hand Difference between major and minor…what content exists Can’t calculate true deadlines In our project: Resources kept “popping up” Version control Source documents missing © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Determine the Flow of Responsibilities To meet the time requirements – 3 writers Single points of contact (writer/engineer) External experts? Print and edit? © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Coping with Insanity © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved. Acceptance – things happen Make the client understand Evaluate progress against remaining tasks Red lines and black lines and red lines Shift to new realities
Keep a Sense… Of Humor: TW deadline 12 noon Friday; engineer’s deadline Saturday midnight? Um…no. Of Quality: yes, we need to proof it, really. Of Deadlines: real ones. No, no 7 days to print (overnight); No 3 days delivery. 12 hour flight; 1 hour taxi © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Summary © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Lessons for Tomorrow Consider investing more time going through ALL requirements Line up all the materials IN ADVANCE Original job: Preparing materials and assembling final document Focus was on preparing Assembling was huge, unanticipated element not defined © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Lessons for Tomorrow Initial meeting should have included In-depth analysis of ALL requirements Creating an outline (rather than their Excel) – with responsible parties Don’t hesitate to bring in more resources if needed Company OK came too late to be practical Client was initially happy w/ 2 writers © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Lessons for Tomorrow Consider interviewing the engineers Client wanted engineers to write – not good… Engineer in Ireland? Scan and print? © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Lessons for Client Time the entrance Version control Check info BEFORE giving to tech writers Are you Ltd. LLC, Inc., Corp? Teamwork Estimations – trust writers who regularly create documentation © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
So, WHY did it take 120 hours? 10 hours was lost working on the customer’s file…till they told us it was the wrong file (times 2) 3 hours with scan/print/telephone corrections Company told us to do A, then B, then C (change company name to Name Inc. – No, Ltd. no…Corp.) – other changes (7 hours) Total wasted: 20 hours © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Not factored into their “20 hours” Compliance requirements – review and implementation – 10 hours (read, check, read, check, fix, check, read) Assembly part took approximately 20 hours (not factored in) Layout issues were huge (different writers, different formatting) – 5 hours Total: = 55 © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved. So, WHY did it take 120 hours?
120 page document…was 180 pages long 5-6 day project took 12 days (long hours) hour days? © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
Final Comments Project was a success Few other companies followed guidelines, while our client did Document was delivered on time (by plane) Document was printed in house © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
And final lesson – share your knowledge © 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.
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