We provide a managed service to produce product documents of many different kinds that may require different levels of participation from in-house staff. In principle we do not produce the raw inputs for documents except for specialized research projects, but we can get involved in the product creation stages to deliver different kinds of manuals of which we describe some typical examples – but there are many more fields in which similar manuals may be required. We have experience with development projects that helps us to understand how the documentation has to come together.
Technical manuals should be produced “hot off the press” in collaboration with projects that develop the product, service, or process that is delivered from a project, so that an immediate level of support can be offered:
Technical manuals provide the glue to bind different aspects of project deliverables: product, service, and process or integration, all parts to be managed so that the core goals and objectives are supported within the overall implementation. Overlooked, any of these can undermine success of the implementation and even be a potential reason for projects to fail: if users only discover after-the-fact the product is not what they expected.
Manuals come in all sizes and shapes, of course, and there are different purposes for creating manuals. Whatever type of manuals you need you will find that it takes work to pull the right information together and to present it in an attractive and effective manner. If you do not write a lot of manuals you may want to consider having us write manuals for you rather than to have an in-house team produce manuals in their spare time. For example, many IT projects run short of time in the end, which typically results in cutting scope in areas like user manuals. Your job will be made a lot easier if we take care of collecting the data that we need to develop those manuals and you let us look after the production and publication of the documents.
Let's look at what we mean: in order to do that, we need to structure the outline of the document, and identify who needs to make what contributions so that we can collect all the inputs that need to be combined into the final document. We keep track of what is outstanding, and based on the schedule we will follow-up to make sure we get the input we need to deliver the result. Unlike an IT project that can manage different streams of work by prioritizing, our focus is the production of documentation and we are motivated to be persistent in our quest to get that job done.
Companies often complain about the state of software documentation as an example, without taking the logical step to make document production a priority. We understand projects and how to structure deliverables into the tracking process so that we ensure that the results come together. We can advise you of the components and the state of scheduled contributions so that you have ample advance knowledge of contributions that remain outstanding past their due date.
The core of any seminar is the actual presentation materials that must support lectures by reinforcing the information that is provided orally. If done right, the presentation materials help you to stay on track with what you are trying to tell your audience, and it helps the audience to see the context of what they are told. There is an art to this, as we explained elsewhere on this site on the topic of PowerPoint presentations.
Presentation materials done wrong can throw you off track, and certainly will confuse your audience when they cannot make a connection between what they hear and what they read. Even worse, if you verbalize what they read it becomes annoying because it sends a message that the audience may not pay attention. You can quote parts of your slides to emphasize context or to attribute a quoted phrase if only to offer variety, but it should not replace dynamic interaction with the audience, to draw them into what you have to say. Remember, you can supplement slides with text to deliver a more useful handout that means more to your audience than a printout of the slides.
We can provide objective feedback and help you to structure your presentation so that all the information that you convey is synchronized. We use PowerPoint or HTML for presentation materials. We can summarize the information into a neatly constructed hand-out that is also a stand-alone guide that may help your audience retain what they have learned (and use it as a quick reference if required). Note that we can also help you with collecting research materials that support your seminar development for many subject areas, and we have connections to link you up with Subject Matter Experts that have the skills and knowledge to work with you to create an excellent presentation.
Provide your employees with tools to do the right things, and to do thing right, rather than to rely on verbal communication to instruct people what the company expects from them. Make sure decisions are made in a consistent manner to uphold consistent rules. We can help you to formalize rules and guidelines using procedure manuals that take the stress out of working in your company. You do not to cover every eventuality, but it is easier to deal with exceptions if not every decision is, in effect, an exception.
Documented procedures foster a consistent level of service representative of what your company stands for. You do not want people to make up answers as they go along. If people want to challenge rules they may propose changes, but until approved they must to follow the rules as documented. Procedures are not handcuffs: they free the employees of uncertainty. Sometimes people understand the benefits of HR procedures for a consistent treatment of employees, but they do not understand the benefits of policies and procedures for a consistent treatment of customers. Remember, customers are less forgiving and will take their business elsewhere, so policies and procedures are critical for your company to operate effectively and efficiently.
We are experts at document composition and we can assist your Subject Matter Experts with policy and procedures knowhow by creating just the right format and presentation for effective documentation. Our work is completely confidential so no aspects of your emerging standards will be exposed until it has been thoroughly edited and reviewed to make sure that it meets your expectations.
You want customers to be happy with the products you sell, so you must produce instruction manuals that help them to use the products effectively. These manuals must not be written for engineers, but for the average purchaser of your products, and since we are not engineers but writers we do not hesitate to ask questions to make manuals more readable and informative. Product manuals are a good investment, because they give the purchaser an opportunity to learn about the product and to start using the product in the way your engineers intended it to be used. That reduces the incidences of purchasers depending on your help information line, an inefficient and expensive way to provide customer information. You do not want to frustrate customers: you want to be proactive, so any help line will in fact be a last resort option
While products have become more sophisticated, product manuals that tell people how to operate products have become less and less complete. Nowhere is this more evident than with computer software: often reduced to an enclosed product flyer so that you have to buy 3rd party documentation i to learn how to use it. While some products attract authors to write the missing manuals, for most products you either develop the user manuals or else the user has to figure it out the hard way. When the user cannot find the information when needed, dissatisfaction with the product (and sometimes damages) will be the result. You can decide for yourself if your product falls into the category of being in need of documentation.
We create and produce user-friendly product manuals: providing the users instructions that let them operate without prior knowledge of the product (regardless of what type of product this is). From step-by-step instructions on how to do maintenance yourself, to technical knowhow, to caution where a trained technician should be consulted, there is a need to provide the users what they need to properly enjoy the product.
The cost of maintaining computer software products is unnecessarily high because there tends to be a lack of emphasis on documenting how products are developed. When maintenance issues arise there may be no information that helps people to focus on the right causes, so it takes much longer to solve problems than what should be the case. We can establish technical support documentation as part of your development projects so that your long term investment in product development is protected.
We are experienced in the field of software documentation: we know that projects may rush to deliver and cannot spare the time it takes to provide adequate documentation. Cost-cutting takes a toll: you do not always see consequences as it may take months, or even longer, before people need to know information that nobody documented. Then you require "hacking": trying to make changes to a system without knowing a potential impact of changes. For developers, working in the dark adds to stress from deadlines and incomplete requirements. When this creates turnover you may see key knowledge walk out the door: sources of information forever lost to the company. Documentation, such as technical support manuals, is critical for the ability to maintain any product.
Without documentation it is likely that future changes will not be documented either, so that the reliability of the software steadily erodes, until it has to be replaced. People may have a fluid recollection of what the product is supposed to do: modified by events that have taken place since the product was originally developed. Facts will increasingly be substituted with opinions that are of little value when faced with a product failure. Documentation provides information on who was involved, who approved the product as is, who asked for changes, and who was responsible for making the changes, and so on. This is not to fix blame, but to find help when you need it. Thus, support manuals must be maintained as product changes are made, so you can track how the product morphed from its inception into its present form.
Training manuals, reference manuals, examples, training web sites, are some of the types of collateral that we have produced in conjunction with producing seminars and the associated training materials for PM4HIRE, a project management training company. It takes much effort to compose and edit the materials, to make it easier for people to understand what they are trying to learn. Everything must be consistent and support other materials that are created, including presentation materials. This is a lot of work on top of designing the basic seminar itself, so it makes sense to have us assist you in editing and publishing information, and to assist you in any research that is required.
The ability to produce customized training is a powerful strategic option for managing a corporate culture. It is not just about project management, for example, but about the way you like projects managed in the organization. That means there is no ready-made training available: you have to take a training program that you can customize to include your corporate needs, or you are faced with developing such a program from scratch. It is not exceptionally difficult to do that if you take the time and work with people within the organization that can share best practices and combine that with expectations from different stakeholders to create a process that fits.
Wait a minute: that looks like any other project, except that the objective is to create a documented process, that’s all. You simply consolidate your investment in operational best practices so that newcomers can learn and apply these processes in a shorter time, and so that you have a baseline for continuous improvement. You may try new things, but you don’t want to lose what works until you discover something better. This may be one of the best investments in process improvement you will ever make.