Technical Writing in Agile
New Approaches
New Opportunities

Larry Kunz
February 11, 2014

#agile #techcomm
Agile Is…
“Just in Time” development
• Flexibility
• Responsiveness
• Short product cycles (sprints)
• Frequent updates

F...
Agile Is…
Agile assumptions:
• Customers want updates fast
• Bugs can be fixed next time
57 percent of software technical
...
Agile Isn’t…
• A new set of tools
• A new programming language
• A new name for what you’ve
been doing all along

Feb 11, ...
The Agile Manifesto
• Individuals & interactions
over processes & tools
• Working software
over comprehensive documentatio...
Agile Terminology
•
•
•
•
•

User story
Sprint
Scrum
Backlog
Stand-up meeting

Feb 11, 2014
@larry_kunz
Good, Not Perfect
• Quality is defined by what meets
the customer’s expectations
• Forget about “good writing”
(whatever t...
The Big Shift
Old: Do I have time for this?
New: What’s most important?
“Focus is the invisible guide”
- Jason Polites
htt...
Agile and the Technical Writer
• Technical reviews:
Ad hoc, limited in scope
• Pre-existing content:
Easy to overlook
• Ed...
Agile and the Technical Writer
Real-world survival tips:
• Don’t throw out everything
you used to know
• Be flexible

Feb ...
Agile and the Technical Writer
To be an effective team member:
• Speak up
• Get involved in all areas of
development
• Tak...
Agile and the Project Manager
• Old (waterfall): Knowing the
big picture in advance
• New (agile): Admitting you
don’t kno...
Agile and the Project Manager
So…
• Don’t strain at gnats
• Instead, provide principles
(and then apply them)
Agile and Sc...
Opportunities
• The technical writer has more
of a voice
Speak up!

• The technical writer takes the
lead in creating user...
Opportunities
• Everyone contributes content
Part of your role becomes that of
curator

• Documentation-only sprints

The ...
Opportunities
• Moving to topic-based writing

Fits the “a little at a time” approach

• Tech writer as independent
contra...
The Agile World
•
•
•
•

More variety
Closer to the customers
Greater voice
More responsibility

Feb 11, 2014
@larry_kunz
Resources (1)
• Wikipedia:
Agile principles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development

Scrum (methodology)
...
Resources (2)
• Larry Kunz:
Documentation in a Collaborative
World: What We've Learned
http://www.writersua.com/articles/c...
Stay in Touch!
Larry Kunz
Twitter: @larry_kunz
larrykunz.wordpress.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/ldkunz

Feb 11, 2014
@la...
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Technical Writing in Agile: New Approaches, New Opportunities

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Description of the agile development process, with an emphasis on how it affects the work of writers and project managers in technical communication. The final part of the presentation lists several opportunities or advantages that accrue to technical writers who begin working in agile.

Published in: Business, Technology

Technical Writing in Agile: New Approaches, New Opportunities

  1. 1. Technical Writing in Agile New Approaches New Opportunities Larry Kunz February 11, 2014 #agile #techcomm
  2. 2. Agile Is… “Just in Time” development • Flexibility • Responsiveness • Short product cycles (sprints) • Frequent updates Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  3. 3. Agile Is… Agile assumptions: • Customers want updates fast • Bugs can be fixed next time 57 percent of software technical writers work in agile (WritersUA Tools & Skills survey, 2014) Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  4. 4. Agile Isn’t… • A new set of tools • A new programming language • A new name for what you’ve been doing all along Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  5. 5. The Agile Manifesto • Individuals & interactions over processes & tools • Working software over comprehensive documentation • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation • Responding to change Feb 11, 2014 over following a plan @larry_kunz
  6. 6. Agile Terminology • • • • • User story Sprint Scrum Backlog Stand-up meeting Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  7. 7. Good, Not Perfect • Quality is defined by what meets the customer’s expectations • Forget about “good writing” (whatever that was) Can the customers use your User Guide? Then…Good. Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  8. 8. The Big Shift Old: Do I have time for this? New: What’s most important? “Focus is the invisible guide” - Jason Polites http://polites.com/2013/04/09/the-big-shift/ Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  9. 9. Agile and the Technical Writer • Technical reviews: Ad hoc, limited in scope • Pre-existing content: Easy to overlook • Editing: Piecemeal • Translation: Harder to schedule Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  10. 10. Agile and the Technical Writer Real-world survival tips: • Don’t throw out everything you used to know • Be flexible Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  11. 11. Agile and the Technical Writer To be an effective team member: • Speak up • Get involved in all areas of development • Take ownership of technical accuracy • Serve on a core team http://techwhirl.com/agile-tech-comm-four-must-doskey-agile-team-member/ Alyssa Fox – Jan 7, 2014 Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  12. 12. Agile and the Project Manager • Old (waterfall): Knowing the big picture in advance • New (agile): Admitting you don’t know the big picture Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  13. 13. Agile and the Project Manager So… • Don’t strain at gnats • Instead, provide principles (and then apply them) Agile and Scrum accept the ultimate truth that no system can be controlled or predicted as long as human beings are involved. - Stephen Gracey http://contentstrategynoob.com/ scrummy-content-in-an-agile-world/ Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  14. 14. Opportunities • The technical writer has more of a voice Speak up! • The technical writer takes the lead in creating user stories You’re the expert at audience analysis Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  15. 15. Opportunities • Everyone contributes content Part of your role becomes that of curator • Documentation-only sprints The whole team focuses on the doc Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  16. 16. Opportunities • Moving to topic-based writing Fits the “a little at a time” approach • Tech writer as independent contractor Act like a businesswoman or businessman Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  17. 17. The Agile World • • • • More variety Closer to the customers Greater voice More responsibility Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  18. 18. Resources (1) • Wikipedia: Agile principles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development Scrum (methodology) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(software_development) • Alyssa Fox's Techwhirl articles http://techwhirl.com (search on “agile”) • Jason Polites: The Big Shift http://polites.com/2013/04/09/the-big-shift/ Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  19. 19. Resources (2) • Larry Kunz: Documentation in a Collaborative World: What We've Learned http://www.writersua.com/articles/collab/index.html Good, not Perfect http://larrykunz.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/good-not-perfect/ • Stephen Gracey: Scrummy Content in an Agile World http://contentstrategynoob.com/scrummy-content-in-an-agile-world/ • LinkedIn group: Agile Tech Writers http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Agile-Technical-Writers-1115987 Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz
  20. 20. Stay in Touch! Larry Kunz Twitter: @larry_kunz larrykunz.wordpress.com http://www.linkedin.com/in/ldkunz Feb 11, 2014 @larry_kunz

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