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Tracking and Controlling Technical Documentation Projects


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Learn how to overcome the challenges brought by tech doc project estimation and cost tracking from the results of a real-world case study.

Presented by:
Barry Saiff - Founder and CEO, Saiff Solutions, Inc.

Published in: Technology
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Tracking and Controlling Technical Documentation Projects

  1. 1. Your Host Scott Abel aka “The Content Wrangler” Internationally recognized content strategist Helps organizations deliver the right content to the right audience, anywhere, anytime, on any device Featured presenter at content industry events Serves on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information.
  2. 2. Your Speaker Barry Saiff 33 years in technical documentation Led content development teams at Symantec, Oracle, IBM, and GE Founded Saiff Solutions in 2011 Provides technical writing services to large enterprises in Australia, Japan, Canada, US
  3. 3. Agenda ● Project Life Cycle ● Project Tracking: Data ● Case Study: Introduction ● Project Tracking: Initial Process ● Project Tracking Issues ● First Improvement Process ● Results from the Improvement Process ● Remaining Project Tracking Issues ● Second Improvement Process ● Planned Solutions ● Lessons Learned Proj
  4. 4. Polling Question 1 What is your biggest project management challenge? A. Volume of data to track/time lost B. Accuracy, team compliance C. Finding the right technology/tools D. Quality: measuring it, maintaining/improving E. Other Proj
  5. 5. Project Life Cycle
  6. 6. 1. Request for Proposal The client defines the project requirements, including any cost or production targets, quality metrics, reporting requirements, etc.
  7. 7. 2. Mock or Pilot Project The client defines the project requirements, including any cost or production targets, quality metrics, reporting requirements, etc.
  8. 8. 3. Project Estimate or Proposal Determines the budget, parameters, and success factors against which project performance will be measured. To meet the set parameters for project estimates, remember the following: ● Accurate estimation requires good data. ● Accurate Estimate vs. Acceptable Estimate ● Unexpected setbacks may happen.
  9. 9. 4. Actual Project The data is tracked based on the project needs. The analysis and reporting measure success based on the agreed benchmarks.
  10. 10. Project Tracking: Data Why is project tracking important? ● To keep track of important data that may reach thousands of elements ● To keep track of the project’s progress ● To make sure that the project cost did not exceed the budget ● To make sure that all the resources are being maximized
  11. 11. Project Tracking: Data Three Key Metric of Tracking Tech Doc Projects: ● Project Units - Example: Source Page, Topics, Maps, Model IDs ● Duration - Example: Budgeted Minutes, Pages per day ● Cost - Rates for each role, overhead, software, equipment, training, etc.
  12. 12. Some data can be used as reference for future projects. Look for similarities, for example: ● Same team ● Same customer ● Same target units ● Similar product or technology ● Similar delivery ● Similar scope Developing & Using Historical Data
  13. 13. SSI has worked with a software company that focuses on the repair and maintenance of large trucks. This project involves highly technical content, with thousands of data points that must be tracked. Project Tracking: Case Study
  14. 14. Project Tracking: Initial Process Project Tracking Tools: ● Google Apps ○ Individual Project Work Details (PWD) ○ Work progress tracking of topics and diagrams (Masterlist) ○ Collation of PWD ○ Budget Tracker ○ Cost Analysis, Estimated Invoice Creation, and Submission ● Trello - for project workflow management
  15. 15. Project Tracking: Issues With numerous people editing and updating the data used for the reports, the following issues arose: ● Using multiple spreadsheets (at least 3 spreadsheets per person a day) ● Many data errors (missing data, wrong entries, etc.) ● Delayed submission of reports ● Time spent on creating cost analysis reports: 2 days/month
  16. 16. Project Tracking: Issues As the project continued and became more demanding, project tracking also became fast- paced and overloaded with data. ● Updating spreadsheets accumulated a large percentage of rendered project hours (20% average of the daily working hours) ● Time spent on manual collation: 1 hour/day ● Time spent on fixing tracking errors: 4 hours/day/person x 40 people
  17. 17. Project Tracking: First Improvement Process ● Created a peer data review process, that reduced the tracking errors. ● Experimented with two apps, Harvest and TimeCamp, to enhance project tracking efficiency. ● Redesigned the spreadsheets to simplify data collection and minimize errors caused by disorganized data.
  18. 18. Project Tracking: Results Neither TimeCamp nor Harvest was customizable enough for our needs. Redesigning the spreadsheets and conducting a peer review minimally decreased the time spent on error- checking and collating data. Despite the tracking challenges, and team growth from 15 to 50 in 6 weeks, we successfully met the deadlines with excellent quality (according to the client).
  19. 19. Project Tracking: Remaining Issues ● Time spent on updating and maintaining the spreadsheets decreased from 20% to 15% of the daily working hours. ● Time spent on manual collation decreased from 1 to 0.5 hours/day. ● Time spent on manual error checking decreased from 4 to 2.5 hours per day. ● Multiple spreadsheets were still used to track projects. ● Time spent on creating cost analysis reports decreased from 2 to 1 days/month.
  20. 20. Project Tracking: Second Improvement Process SSI started a Rapid Improvement Workshop including 10 people. The workshop was facilitated by an external consultant. Our purpose was to solve the company’s remaining issues with project-tracking and analysis, while training staff in critical thinking skills.
  21. 21. Project Tracking: Second Improvement Process
  22. 22. Project Tracking: Solutions Short-Term ● Train more people in data tracking and reporting to provide backup. ● Combine spreadsheets that contain redundant information to minimize the time spent tracking.
  23. 23. P A C U Project Tracking: Planned Solutions Short-Term ● Create a visual management board to easily track individual activities, and give timely updates on every project task. PACU management board: A visual presentation of people (P), accounts (A), computers (C), and updates (U) available for the project. This enables the team to see an overview of the project and maximize the available resources.
  24. 24. Project Tracking: Planned Solutions PACUP A C U P - People A - Accounts C - Computer U - Updates
  25. 25. Project Tracking: Planned Solutions Long-Term ● Hiring a software developer or database administrator to create a customized, more fully automated project tracking system, OR ● Hiring a company that specializes in app APIs to create custom app extensions. (Example: Cloud Elements)
  26. 26. Lessons Learned What Worked: PWD Peer Reviews Redesigning Spreadsheets What Didn’t Work: Use of Multiple Spreadsheets Apps What We Didn’t Try: Hiring a software developer, database admin, API specialist, or API company
  27. 27. Can We Help You? If Saiff Solutions could assist you in overcoming your challenges, would you be interested in a free consultation? A. Yes, please contact me directly. B. Not right now, but please send me more information about Saiff Solutions’ services. C. No, thank you.