On a regular basis, webinars and conferences are held to discuss technical documentation. There is still no consensus on how to address the problem of tracking and estimating technical writing projects. Why? This debate is not triggered by time and effort tracking for programmers, testers engineers and other software developers. It is the effort tracking of technical writers that causes this. Let’s see why.
Managing documentation development projects
Software engineers will not be able to annotate all updates and changes made to the software products and versions that the company develops. Technical writers provide complete documentation support for new products and updates, while continuing to support older versions.
Although technical documentation projects can be managed differently from one company to another, the general consensus for project management is that they are managed in the same way. The product owner or project manager requests documentation from the head of development. This person is responsible for managing and controlling the software engineers assigned to the products and projects.
Why is it so difficult for technical writers to be tracked?
Technical writers are often part of the development team. Is there a difference between software engineers and technical writers when it comes to tracking and estimating the work of technical writers? Technical writers are often not assigned to work on one product at a time. It is common for documentation to be produced for multiple products at once, according to their release dates. Although all products are managed differently by product owners, documentation can be requested at any stage of development, during product testing, or even after the product launches. The time and workload required of technical writers to produce quality documentation can vary. You may need to consult with product owners and subject matter specialists (SME) more often, as well as more reviews and additional document amendments. This could happen when the final UI design is not as decided. You will need to update product screenshots prior to the final release date.
Not only are tasks often assigned to different departments and managers, but some managers fail to include documentation about the development stage in the project plan. Even if they include documentation, managers often forget to include a timeframe for evaluating and verifying the work. This is where technical writers come in, as this can often lead to rushing projects or working overtime.
The difficulty of documentation development does not always correlate with the number of technical writers at your disposal. If you have more writers than one, it is possible for all tasks to be assigned to their manager. This makes the life of a writer much easier, but it makes it harder for their team leader.
How can technical writers be tracked and counted? (our experience)
It’s not difficult, even though it seems so. These are our stories of how we dealt with these problems. Our company recently made the decision to improve our corporate project management software, Actionspace. This allows us to more effectively manage technical writing projects.
Assigning tasks and planning for time
Imagine that you have two technical writers, their leader and several product owners within your company. Any product owner can request documentation. The team leader can access Actionspace from any web browser on any device, whether it is a PC, laptop or tablet. Just a few clicks and the documentation is available.