AODC Day 2: Managing a Documentation Project

This week I’m at AODC 2010, the Australasian Online Documentation and Content conference. We’re in Darwin, in the “top end” of Australia. This post is my summary of one of the sessions at the conference. The post is derived from my notes taken during the presentation. All the credit goes to Monica Allen, the presenter. Any mistakes and omissions are my own.

Monica Allen led us through a documentation project that she has recently managed. She covered the management process, an assessment of how they did, and a look at some of the hiccups the suffered and what she would do differently next time.

The project

The purpose of the project was to merge two instances of SAP into one. It was a long-term undertaking.

Monica walked us through the various stages of the project. She planned the stages based on a project management book by JoAnn T. Hackos, titled Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People (2007).

The development cycle is split into the following phases:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Development
  • Production
  • Evaluation

Monica showed us a number of examples of the way she was able to report progress to her client during the development phase, using Microsoft Project and various spreadsheets. As in all long-term projects, Monica had to deal with changing requirements and scope creep. She showed us how such changes must be scoped and costed. You need to understand the impact on your schedule and communicate this impact, before approving the changes.

Monica stressed the importance of the “evaluation” phase at the end of the project. It gives you a chance to see how you did and to assess the lessons learned.

How did they do?

Monica’s assessment is, “Not bad!!!” :)  She gives them a 7 out of 10. There were a few hiccups, not all of which were under the control of the documentation project managers.

What would they do differently next time?

Next time, Monica would check the following:

  • Make sure the development processes are in place.
  • Engage the SMEs (subject matter experts) and make sure they know who you are and what’s expected of them.
  • Make sure that contractor administration runs smoothly.
  • Set up better team communication mechanisms.
  • Tighten up the procedures for bringing new people on board.
  • Tighten up the review procedures.
  • Make sure you have access to source material.

My conclusion

Monica has a wealth of knowledge and experience. She gave us tips and insights into project management and particularly the management of a large documentation project. Seeing the amount of content produced and the varied delivery methods (eLearning, classroom, and more), I take my hat off to Monica and the team for bringing such a project to a successful conclusion. And for sharing what she learned. Thank you Monica.

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 14 May 2010, in AODC, technical writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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