Remedial Documentation and the Contract Technical Writer

EBSTC October Program Recap

EBSTC was delighted to host Bruce Poropat at our October dinner meeting. His topic was Remedial Documentation and the Contract Technical Writer. It was enlightening to hear Bruce describe his system for handling the typical problems encountered by a contract (and often employee) technical writer hired to document a company’s or team’s tool or system.

The early problems he described sounded familiar:

sparse source materials, SMEs hoarding key information, scattered resources and a scope that looks different from each team member’s perspective. Such is the world of technical writing.

But what Bruce did next was tell us that it doesn’t have to be that way. When a company recognizes the value of bringing in a technical writer early enough in the project to develop the necessary “remedial documentation,” it saves hours of time and effort (and money) because the writer isn’t forced to do so much research, SME chasing and catch-up work before beginning to tackle the more complex project deliverables she was hired to create.

Of course, that’s a perfect world. Bruce’s presentation described how to clarify the client’s expectations up front and where to start excavating the hidden treasures stored in their spreadsheets, notes, requirements documents, heads and diagrams. He gave tips about dealing with gate-keeper SMEs who resist sharing their secrets, and what tools can be helpful to ease the pain of remedial documentation.