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Technical Communications Project Documentation Life Cycle - Sample Guide

Updated on March 24, 2015

The test life cycle consists of various stages. Some of these stages are optional, according to the document’s project (for example, the stages for a newsletter, or online help files, will differ from that for a test plan). Please see the illustration below and descriptions, which follow.

Caution

As discussed in this section, it is essential that all team members provide the Tech Writer with all necessary information, edits, and sign-offs in order to ensure that deliverables are met.

It is also essential that the software service/product is frozen
in time for Final Editing stages to be completed.

If at any time, an event occurs which would negatively impact documentation deliverables, the writer is REQUIRED
to immediately notify the project manager, Tech Comm and other appropriate personnel.

Project Documentation Cycle

Stage 1: Kickoff

The first stage in any documentation cycle involves the kickoff. Normally, this is performed in a formal kickoff meeting, but may require some flexibility based on the project, its size, and time constraints. Kickoff is based on a management directive or request rather than a meeting. The kick off defines the project, its goals and objectives.

  • The team member from Tech Comm should document the meeting, and release those notes to the Project Manager for verification. This helps to ensure that all phases of the project will be documented accurately and completely.
  • The Tech Writer completes a Time Estimate Form and sends it to Tech Comm.

Ensure that the following items have been determined:

  • Types of deliverables.
  • Due date for deliverables.
  • Tech Comm due dates (dates when edits are due to be returned).
  • Freeze date.

Stage 2: Research

Research hours must be scheduled for each document. Research may include testing, or working with, software. It may also include interviewing SMEs, or, as in the case of test plans, research may include incorporating Functional Specifications and/or Requirements documentation.

NOTE: Any hindrances to the research phase of the Documentation Cycle will severely impact any or all deliverables.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Test, or work with, software.
  • Interview SMEs.
  • Review, interpret, digest and incorporate Functional Specifications, Requirements and/or other documentation.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Obtain and review existing information.
  • Gather user data (how the customer will use product/service, needs, etc.)
  • Review the subject matter, product (software) or service.
  • Obtain any new information, data, screens, etc.

Stage 3: Initial Documentation

Initial documentation involves taking the document template and outlining the project. Some information may be added to flush out the document. This creates a shell document, which can be released for optional signoffs to verify that Tech Comm understands what is needed in the documentation.

NOTE: In the case of online help, or web forms, the Tech Writer will provide the team with HTML files in all draft stages of the cycle, rather than DOC files.

Tech Writer obtains a document number from Tech Comm. This number is derived from the Document Master List File. Writer also must obtain file numbers from Tech Comm for each graphic file incorporated into the document.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Get file part number(s).
  • Create file.
  • Review shell with SMEs, PM, and editor.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Obtain part number from master list.
  • Obtain part numbers for graphic files.

Stage 4: Initial Draft

The Initial Draft is a first attempt at developing the necessary documentation. All drafts should have a DRAFT watermark on every page.

The First Draft should be as complete as possible. Due to the nature of project development, subject areas in the product or service may not be completed at the time of draft release. Bookmarks or place marks should be inserted into the document wherever information is missing or incomplete. All questions that have arisen due to documenting the project should accompany the first draft of the document when it is sent to the SMEs and Project Manager.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Insert a Draft watermark.
  • Complete draft.
  • Determine location of any missing information.
  • Develop any questions for SME/PM.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Draft is as complete as possible.

Stage 5: Release Draft for Technical Review

The Tech Comm member must release the draft for technical review, with a sign-off sheet that all team members are to sign and return, along with all edits, on or before the marked due date attached to the file. Failure to receive edits and signoffs will impact deliverables.

The Tech Writer must deliver a copy of the sign off packet and draft to the QA Specialist for testing.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Complete sign off packet.
  • Distribute sign off packet to appropriate tech members and the QA Specialist.
  • Amass edits.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Sign off packet has been completed and distributed.
  • Distribute sign off packet to appropriate tech members, and amass edits.

Stage 6: Edit Initial Draft

Incorporate all changes, edits, and enhancements into the document.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Incorporate all appropriate edits.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Store edited hardcopies in file.

Stage 7: Create Final Draft

The software/service/product must be frozen by this time. All edits must be incorporated into the Final Draft. Include the Tech Comm Supervisor in the release list.

The writer should:

  • Complete sign off packet.
  • Distribute sign off packet to appropriate tech members.
  • Amass edits.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Sign off packet has been completed and distributed.
  • Distribute sign off packet to appropriate tech members, and amass edits.

Stage 8: Final Review & Sign Off

Incorporate all changes, edits, enhancements into the document.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Incorporate all appropriate edits.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • Store edited hardcopies in file.

Stage 9: Store in Repository

Send file to Tech Comm to store it in repository.

The Tech Writer should:

  • Remove the DRAFT watermark from all pages.
  • Produce a camera-ready hardcopy of the document.
  • Place the document in a pocket folder and deliver to Tech Comm.

The Tech Comm Supervisor should:

  • File the master in the appropriate location, based on document numbering scheme.

Ensure that the following items have been accomplished:

  • File has been properly received and stored.

Stage 10: Publish

The file must be properly published. It may also be converted to PDF or HTML formats.

The TCS should:

  • Create a PDF.
  • Distribute to appropriate recipients.
  • Distribute the file to the Webmaster.

The Webmaster should:

  • Post the file to the appropriate location on the website.

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    • markbush5150 profile image
      Author

      Mark Bush 3 years ago from Tampa, Florida 33609

      This document is a result of working experiences as a Technical Writer. It includes knowledge learned working with and for clients and fellow writers.

    working