Online groups, winter 2011

Approval of documents

After one technical communicator changes a document, other people review the document. The technical communicator makes more changes, and the cycle continues until the technical communicator and the reviewers are happy with the document. However, the technical communicator cannot get final approval from an authority who 'signs off' the document for publication.

Members gave the following comments about approval systems in other organizations.

Ideally, each document has an owner. The owner is never the technical communicator. Usually, the owner is the operations manager or the product manager. A manual is part of a product. Therefore, the applicable owner is responsible for final approval. If the owner has problems with giving approval, the organization must decide what the product includes.

Making someone responsible for a product is part of the quality assurance function. If no person has the final authority, then there is a problem with quality assurance. Possibly, there is also a problem with management.

Software is checked, tested, and approved before it is released. Similarly, product documentation must be checked, tested, and approved. The product managers are responsible for making sure that the product is satisfactory. A technical communicator has no authority and cannot make people do their jobs. However, a technical communicator can explain the problem to a senior manager or to a director. These people can tell the product managers to do their jobs correctly.

If an organization is ISO 9000 certified, then the approval system must be documented. Most organizations that are ISO 9000 certified have a cover sheet with each document. The applicable people sign the cover sheet to confirm that they give approval to the document.

Terms for touch-screens

One member thinks that 'click' is not a good term to explain the operation of a touch-screen. She asked whether the terms 'touch', 'press, and 'select' are satisfactory.

Some terms from members are as follows:

Possibly, use pictures to show the meaning of a term.

Recently, Joe Welinske from WritersUA published Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps (www.writersua.com/mobile/book.htm). The book suggests the terms to use with touch-screens. Examples of new terms are 'flick', 'pan', 'pinch', and 'stretch'.

Sometimes, a user can use a mouse or a keyboard instead of a touch-screen. Therefore, one member uses 'select', because he does not know how the users access the software.

Ratio of sofware developers to technical communicators

In one organization, the ratio of software developers to technical communicators is approximately 35:1. A manager wants to increase the number of technical communicators in the organization, because the organization increased the number of software developers. Therefore, the manager wants to know the ratio of software developers to technical communicators in organizations that produce software or embedded electronics. To keep things simple, the term 'software developer' includes other technical roles such as testers.

Seven technical communicators supplied numbers. Six of those technical communicators are the only technical communicator in their organization. The ratio of software developers to technical communicators was between 6:1 and 27:1. One technical communicator thought that at one organization, the ratio was 35:1. (Previously, he worked at the organization, but he is not there now.)

In 2003, Cherryleaf did a survey (www.cherryleaf.com/PDFs/How%20many%20technical%20writers%20should%20we%20have%20in%20our%20organisation.pdf). Cherryleaf found the average ratio was 12:1, but there were ratios of 50:1 and 100:1. Some studies suggested that the best ratio is 7:1. Probably, in most organizations now, the ratio is between 10:1 and 15:1.

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