Documentation Project Management Resources

Document Sample
Documentation Project Management Resources Powered By Docstoc


        our team just got a new assign-
        ment—there’s a new product roll-
        ing out in just a few months that
        will need documentation. Where
        do you start? Experienced docu-
        mentation project managers can
  draw on their prior experiences of what
  worked and what didn’t. In some com-
  panies, the process may even be docu-
  mented, depending on the company’s
  process maturity level. Even with this
  help and experience, many of us will
  be learning (and making mistakes) as
  we go along. But we don’t have to go it
  alone—there are a number of resources
                                            Jean-Francois Allaux/Getty Images

  available to help us.

  The New Standard for
  Documentation Project Management
     The International Standards Orga-
  nization (ISO) is currently developing
  an international set of eight documen-
  tation standards, similar to standards

  18                                                                            June 2006

for quality such as ISO 9000. Over the         surprised by what you need from them           you’ll let people know what is in each
years, a number of different ISO stan-         later on in the project. Consider all          piece and where to find it.
dards have addressed documentation,            phases of the effort from initial require-        Audience and task analysis. The docu-
but they overlapped, dated back to the         ments gathering through planning, de-          mentation relies on audience and task
command-line documentation era, did            velopment, and final delivery.                  analysis. You need to understand who
not address electronic documentation,             Plan content. You’ll need to create a       your audience is and what they need
or were aimed specifically at consumer          documentation plan that specifies the           to do (or what they need to learn from
software. The new set of standards will        work to be carried out in creating the         your document). You could write the
be audience-focused. (For information          documentation. A documentation plan,           best instructions in the world on how
on this suite of standards, see Ralph          like any other plan, is likely to change       to feed cats, but if all your readers own
Robinson’s article, “Standards: New Op-        during the course of a project; however,       only dogs, the document won’t be use-
portunities for P&P Writers,” in the No-       the plan’s ultimate goal is to ensure that     ful to them.
vember 2005 issue of Intercom.)                all team members understand what is               Software and systems engineering life cycle
   The first standard under develop-            to be accomplished, by whom, and by            overview. Part of documentation plan-
ment targets managers of end-user              when. As the project progresses, update        ning includes coordinating your ef-
documentation, and its progress is well        the plan accordingly.                          forts with the developers of the product
under way. The full name is fairly long:          Suite design. Your project may include      you’re documenting. If you understand
the International Standards Organiza-          one final book or several books. It may         the software or product engineering life
tion/International       Electrotechnical      include printed manuals, online Help,          cycle, you’ll be better able to integrate
Commission Joint Technical Commit-             or other types of communication prod-          the documentation with it.
tee 1/SubCommittee 7 Working Group             ucts. By defining each element in the              Estimation. You’ll need to estimate
2 Proposed Standard 26511. Those               “suite” of documentation products up           both time and costs for your project.
who like acronyms can refer to it by its       front, you can split the work among            This topic alone can fill several books!
short name: ISO/IEC JTC1/SC7 WG2               your team and will be better able to           In project estimation, you should in-
Proposed Standard 26511. Those of us           coordinate the various elements. De-           clude all costs, like supplies and over-
working on it call it by an even shorter       fine each piece in the set with as much         head. When estimating time, allow for
name: “Project 11.” Spearheaded by Phil        detail as possible, including definitions       holidays, vacations, department meet-
Cohen of HCi, a technical communica-           of the intended audience, the tasks the        ings, and the like. Don’t forget to in-
tion firm in Sydney, Australia, this proj-      user will perform, the physical delivery       clude the time you’re asking from the
ect currently involves over 100 technical      media, and general structure of the            reviewers and support people, if you
communicators representing fifteen dif-         information.                                   have them. Each project is unique and
ferent countries.                                 Review and testing process. Write down      will require a different set of conditions
                                               the process that you’re going to use for       that go into your estimate. Remember,
Project Scope                                  review and testing, and, if possible, get      your estimates can be revised as needed
   Project 11 spans the following twelve       the reviewers and testers to sign off on       as your project proceeds. The more
basic areas of documentation project           it. The review process should find and          projects you estimate, the more accu-
management:                                    fix errors in a documentation product           rate your estimates will become.
   Note: Though the headings come di-          before it is released for use. Testing veri-      Work breakdown structure. A work
rectly from the new proposed standard,         fies a documentation product’s fitness           breakdown structure is an exhaustive,
the descriptive paragraphs below are my        for use.                                       hierarchical (from general to specific)
own summaries of each section. Be sure            Configuration management. Configura-          tree structure of deliverables and tasks
to see the standard itself when it is re-      tion management refers to the systems          that need to be performed to complete
leased for more detail!                        that you develop to track the compo-           a project. Note that in this case, we’re
   Roles and job descriptions. Before start-   nents of your project as they evolve.          talking about the tasks that you need to
ing any project, you need to know who          What system will you use to identify who       accomplish to create the documenta-
will be working on it and what each per-       makes each change, when information            tion, not the tasks that the user needs to
son will do. This information can often        was received, or how a particular docu-        learn about.
include more than writers and editors:         ment was created?                                 Quality metrics. How will you measure
It can include subject matter experts,            Metadata. Metadata is the informa-          the project’s success? Depending on
managers, and other departments like           tion about the information you are             your corporate goals, you may need
Legal or Quality Assurance, which may          documenting. Though metadata will              to develop numbers for the cost and/
have roles in the project.                     vary among projects, you should con-           or time it takes to produce your docu-
   Process. Define the process you’re go-       sider things like how the documents            ments, ensure the accuracy of your es-
ing to use up front. This will reduce the      fit together and fit in with other exist-        timates (X percent late or Y percent
number of surprises that you get and           ing or proposed documents, how you’ll          under budget), calculate return on in-
the number of people who claim to be           handle the source documents, and how           vestment, or measure your customer’s

June 2006                                                                                                                                19

  satisfaction with the new information        starting to organize documentation or          STC community events. Check with
  you’re delivering.                           technical publications groups within a       your STC communities, as they may
     Tools and infrastructure requirements.    company. Hartman’s book is aimed at          have project management topics on
  This is where you’ll list the other things   smaller companies or one-person tech-        the calendar already, either as monthly
  you need in order to complete your proj-     nical publications departments, but          program meetings or as half-day or full-
  ect successfully. Obviously, you’ll need     it has a ton of useful information for       day workshops. If they don’t, ask for
  access to the software or product you’re     groups of any size.                          what you want! Community leaders will
  documenting. You may need to upgrade            Though it isn’t specific to documenta-     gladly hear how they can better serve
  your tools—do you have the latest ver-       tion projects, you might also try Getting    your needs.
  sion of your word processing or Help au-     Started in Project Management by Paula         Regional and annual conferences. If
  thoring software? Does your team have        Martin and Karen Tate (Wiley, 2001).         there’s nothing available at the local
  the hardware required by the product?        Besides chapters on planning and risk        level, check out the regional or annual
  Are you running the same versions of         management, the book includes some           conferences. The management stem
  project management or version control        great checklists and several useful          of STC’s annual conferences provides
  software as the other departments?           appendixes.                                  dozens of terrific sessions by experi-
                                                                                            enced managers. If you missed the 2006
  Want to help?                                Existing/related ISO standards               conference in Las Vegas, start planning
     For more information about Proj-             Some existing ISO documents de-           now to go to Minneapolis in May 2007!
  ect 11, to see who is working on the         scribe other documentation standards.        Or you can check the STC calendar at
  project, or to volunteer to help as a        You can access these standards in Eng- for
  reviewer, visit the Web at      lish or French through the ISO site at       regional and related events.
  au/iso/project_11.                  Here are two standards you        Local college or university. Though they
     Managers might also be interested in      might want to look for:                      may not be specific to technical commu-
  contributing to Project 14 (ISO 26514)          ISO/IEC 18019:2003—Guidelines for         nication, most schools offer a variety of
  Standard for User Documentation De-          the design and preparation of user doc-      project planning courses. Check with a
  signers and Developers, the next set of      umentation for application software.         business school or your local Small Busi-
  standards under development. While              ISO/IEC TR 9294:2005—Guide-               ness Association ( to see
  Project 14 is aimed at documentation         lines for the management of software         what’s going on in your neighborhood.
  designers, managers should have a            documentation.                                 Project Management Institute (PMI).
  global knowledge of all the standards                                                     With more than 250 chapters around
  with which their various team members        STC resources                                the world, this organization provides
  must comply. For more information               The STC Web site is a treasure chest      programs, training, and conferences on
  about Project 14, see the sidebar on         of resources, including articles from        project management issues. Chances
  page 31.                                     Intercom, the quarterly journal Technical    are there is a local chapter near you.
                                               Communication, and the annual confer-        Like STC communities, PMI chapters
  Other Resources                              ence proceedings.                            host programs and workshops through-
    As exciting as a new standard is, it may      Another terrific resource is the STC       out the year and offer networking and
  be several years before it is published in   Management SIG Web site (www.stcsig.         volunteer opportunities. See www.pmi.
  final form. And that project you were         org/mgt). This site has templates and        org for more information.
  just assigned won’t wait! Luckily, there     guidelines donated by the Management                             (Continued on page 31)
  are many other resources that can help       SIG membership (look under “Learn-
  you get started or work smarter.             ing”) and a monthly newsletter, Direc-       Brenda Huettner is owner of P-N Designs,
                                               tives, which contains useful information     Inc., a communications consulting company.
  Books                                        on a variety of management topics.           She writes articles and teaches workshops
    Read up! The classic reference for                                                      on management, usability, and technical
  documentation project management is          Classes                                      writing. Brenda has several books in print,
  Managing Your Documentation Projects by        Different people have different learn-     including Career Tactics for Techni-
  JoAnn Hackos (Wiley, 1994). A hefty          ing styles. You may find that you get         cal Communicators and Macromedia
  656 pages, this book contains loads of       more from classroom training than from       Captivate: The Definitive Guide. She is
  information as well as templates to help     “book learning.” The following options       a member of the Usability Professionals As-
  you get started.                             are available for project managers:          sociation and the Tucson Computer Society,
    Another good book is Peter Hart-             STC Web-telephone seminars. Check          sits on the Administrative Committee for the
  man’s Starting a Documentation Group         out for a list of   IEEE Professional Communication Society,
  (Clear Point Consultant’s Press, 1999).      upcoming seminars. These are given           and is a fellow of the Society for Technical
  As the title implies, the book includes      over the Web and require a telephone         Communication. You can reach Brenda
  helpful advice for people who are just       connection.                                  Huettner at

  20                                                                                                                        June 2006
                                                                                                                         society pages

New Forum                                          From the President                          offered five comprehensive, two-day
                                                                                               training classes (with certificates). The
for Intercom                                       (Continued from page 2)                     feedback revealed that 96 percent of
                                                                                               the attendees would return for another

I f you haven’t yet checked out the
  member forums at,
you’re missing an exciting new benefit
                                                   have a communications advisory com-
                                                   mittee on the board, and a formal com-
                                                   munications strategy is being developed
                                                                                               similar program, and 89 percent said
                                                                                               they received outstanding value for
                                                                                               their dollars. We plan to expand these
of STC membership. Since their debut               to further improve communications.          programs to other areas, including oth-
early this year, the forums have gener-            We set up the “Ask STC” and “Current        er countries.
ated vigorous discussion among mem-                Initiatives” areas on to an-
bers about issues in training, content             swer questions and help you understand      Leadership
management, design, online Help, writ-             more about STC’s goals. Yes, we are be-       My last article explained the many
ing, editing, and other topics in tech-            coming more transparent and provid-         benefits and new support systems that
nical communication. Members have                  ing more information to members. We         the Leadership Community Resource
also contributed views on Society gov-             even posted our IRS Form 990 on our         (LCR) will bring to our community
ernance and conferences. Now Intercom              Web site.                                   leaders. Several phases of the program
invites members to share their reactions                                                       are now in effect, a full year early. In
to each issue in the new publications              Education                                   my opinion, the LCR is one of the most
section of the forum.                                I appointed a blue-ribbon education       ambitious and beneficial programs that
   Maurice Martin, editor of Intercom              task force of well-known experts in tech-   STC has ever offered!
and administrator of the publications              nical communication and education             This has, indeed, been an unprec-
forum, plans to create a forum topic for           (members and nonmembers) to review          edented year, but we’ve managed to
articles that appear in the magazine.              STC’s conference and educational op-        make it an impressive one too. We dared
   Of course, we continue to encourage             portunities and make recommendations        to dream big because we know that what
readers to send letters to the editor at           to improve them and add more member         we dream today, we can achieve tomor- Letters are a valuable           value. The board has already approved       row. Thanks for giving me the opportu-
addition to the print Intercom—and we              many of their recommendations.              nity to lead STC this year; I’ll never for-
love getting mail!                                   A new pilot educational program           get the experience!

    Documentation                                     Project 14 (ISO 26514) Standard for User Documentation Designers
    Project                                           and Developers
                                                         ISO will soon be soliciting volunteers for the next set of documenta-
    Management                                        tion standards to be developed. Project 14 (ISO 26514) Standard for User

    Resources                                         Documentation Designers and Developers is intended to be a comprehen-
                                                      sive and up-to-date standard for all forms of user documentation, from quick
    (Continued from page 20)                          reference guides to embedded help to multivolume document sets. It will
                                                      deal with the life cycle process for designing and maintaining user docu-
      As you can see, there are lots of resourc-      mentation. It will specify acceptable practice for the content, structure, and
    es out there, with more being created             format of user documentation in both electronic and print media.
    every day. And the short list of resources           The content of this next standard will be primarily drawn from the exist-
    here points to additional mines of infor-         ing standard IEEE 1063-2000, Standard for Software User Documentation, as
    mation: Web sites have links, books list          well as the guidance in ISO/IEC 18019, Software and systems engineering—
    other books, and the standards projects           Guidelines for the design and preparation of user documentation for appli-
    are growing as new components are                 cation software. Both of these source standards were developed and reviewed
    added. (See sidebar.) Project manage-             by international working groups including STC members. The assistance of
    ment is both an art and a science, and            STC members will also be welcome in reviewing a draft of the new standard
    we are all learning more about it with            when it is available. To volunteer, contact the standard’s editors, George
    every project we complete. Come learn             Hayhoe ( and Annette Reilly (
    with us!

June 2006                                                                                                                               31