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TWB_White_Paper_Program Management Process for Technical Documentation_noPW

TWB_White_Paper_Program Management Process for Technical Documentation_noPW

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A program is a specific undertaking to achieve a number of objectives. Every program develops from a unique
business opportunity before moving into the implementation of projects or multiple production units. Program
Management is the management of projects towards a specific objective. Improper program management can
cause delays in handing over the deliverables, cost escalation and loose credibility among stakeholders. This
paper provides some pointers into better management of Technical Documentation program.
A program is a specific undertaking to achieve a number of objectives. Every program develops from a unique
business opportunity before moving into the implementation of projects or multiple production units. Program
Management is the management of projects towards a specific objective. Improper program management can
cause delays in handing over the deliverables, cost escalation and loose credibility among stakeholders. This
paper provides some pointers into better management of Technical Documentation program.

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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation

Abstract
A program is a specific undertaking to achieve a number of objectives. Every program develops from a unique business opportunity before moving into the implementation of projects or multiple production units. Program Management is the management of projects towards a specific objective. Improper program management can cause delays in handing over the deliverables, cost escalation and loose credibility among stakeholders. This paper provides some pointers into better management of Technical Documentation program.

Program Management
Program management is defined as the management of projects towards a specific objective. There are different types of program management: • Hierarchical • • System of relations Flat

A hierarchical program management involves setting up of a hierarchy in the form of a pyramid. The decision-making authorities are at the higher level or top of the pyramid. The flow of communication is from top-down and is a two way process. The advantage of this method is that the lower levels are free from program management issues and are able to work efficiently towards meeting the program goals. In a system of relations there is no fixed direction in the flow of communication. Communication is a two way process between the entities involved. The advantage of such a system is that the entities are also involved in the decision making process. In a flat system of program management, the organization will have only a few levels of managers. The advantage is that it matches the needs of modern work force that would like to have more responsibility, autonomy and authority. Independent of the type of management prevalent, Program Management has a life cycle that is called as Program Management Life Cycle.

Need for program management
A research conducted by Standish Group in 1994 has revealed that 31.1% of the projects were cancelled before completion. 52.7% of the projects cost over 189% of their original estimate. Only 16.2% of the projects are completed on time and on budget. The failure to produce reliable software to effectively handle baggage at Denver airport was costing the city USD 1.1 million a day. These statistics reveal the need for an effective program management. There are a number of factors that contribute to failure of program management. Some of the factors are: • Poorly defined goals • • • • • • • • Poor planning Failure to identify risks Poor resource management Poor stakeholder management Poor communication due to a sense of urgency Frequent changes to the scope of the program Unrealistic completion dates No change management system

Before the actual development, vendors for the program have to be identified and their role in the program has to be defined. This stage is important as all the parties in the program have the same level of information at any period of time. In the case of vendors, the familiar complaints are: unapproachable Program Manager, non-cooperation between the vendors and other staff, poor communication between the developers and vendors, and frequent changes to the scope of the program without communicating that to the vendors. The Writers Block
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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation
Due to poor planning, Technical Documentation teams are involved in the program towards the end. The documentation team is forced to work under high stress. This results in poor communication and affects the quality of the deliverable. At times, the documentation team faces problems such as: • Change in the number of modules. • • • • • Change in the UI design. Non-availability of source data. Unreliable information. Improper technical review. Delay in receiving review feedback.

As a result, the documentation team is forced to compromise on the quality of the deliverable. Improper financial planning also contributes towards program delays. It is commonly observed that inadequate funds delay the procurement of much needed resources. In certain cases, recruitment is frozen and results in team members being overloaded with work. This affects the productivity of the team and ultimately the program has a setback. The factors mentioned above, reinforces the need for an effective program management. Good program management ensures good program planning, monitoring and control. Program management provides a methodology to enable successful initiation and completion of projects. A good program management plan will also define: • Schedule of work activities • • • • Identification of risks A process for monitoring Controlling the activities and deliverables Change management process

Program management life cycle
Program management life cycle has the following four phases: • Initiation • Planning • Development • Closure

Program Initiation
This is the first phase of program management life cycle. In this stage a business opportunity is identified and feasibility studies are carried out. The results of the feasibility studies initiate a program. The program is defined with a scope. In the initiation phase, initial key resources for the program are also identified, for example: a Program Manager (PM). The PM then sets up a Program Management Office (PMO). The Program Manager in consultation with stakeholders identifies individuals for formal review of the program. This approach addresses active participation of the stakeholders in the project and sets up an effective communication cycle that is vital for a successful program. A team is then built to develop the deliverables. Depending on the number of teams the scope can be broken down to achievable team goals. Technical documentation is an integral part of software development. During the program initiation phase, the scope of technical documentation should be clearly identified. The documentation department should also be informed of their point of entry in the program life cycle. For an ideal program, the technical documentation team should work alongside the development team. This ensures in developing quality deliverables within the stipulated timescale. There have been instances wherein a program was delayed, as the documentation was not complete owing to improper planning.

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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation
Program Planning
Once a program is initiated the next stage involves the preparation of a strong foundation that can withstand any deviations from the defined scope as the program progresses. Some of the activities at this stage include: Identification of adequate resources: Resources for any program include manpower, equipments, machinery and accessories such as software and hardware for the teams involved. The PM must identify skilled and qualified manpower from within the organization or recruit. The PM should also ensure the availability of a training team to help the recruits’ ramp up with necessary skills and knowledge prior to the development phase. External suppliers for software or hardware requirements should be identified and necessary steps should be initiated to procure the same, prior to the development phase. Identifying and documenting responsibilities: Once teams are identified and setup, the responsibilities of PM and team members should be established and documented. Such a step will prevent breakdowns and finger pointing as the program progresses. Some of the responsibilities of PM include: • Prepare and review overall program plans and schedules for the project • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Allocate activities and tasks to the program development team Closely monitor the activities against plan and take necessary corrective actions Report the status of the program to the stakeholders Chair weekly review meetings with the team to ensure dissemination of program related information Guide the team and provide solutions towards any problems faced by them Escalate matters requiring immediate attention Coordinate change management activities Resolve issues and ad hoc requests Identify, assess, control and plan contingency measures Plan, review and request for required personnel, hardware and software resources Ensure the overall project quality along with the corrective action with respect to causal analysis Approval and dispatch of all deliverables Collect customer feedback Some of the responsibilities of the team members include: Analyze and perform the assigned activities Perform the design and documentation as per the program standards and guidelines Perform defect analysis Ensure reviews (both internal and external) during the development process and prior to delivery Incorporate review findings Maintain version control on source, data and documentation Ensure packaging and delivery as per the program standards and guidelines Participate in weekly status review meetings Perform System and Integration Testing Report the Program status to the PM

Communicating within teams: Communication plays a vital role in the success of any program. Communication could be in the form of regular weekly meetings with the members and the vendors. A regular meeting allows the Program Manager to resolve any issues that affect the functioning of the team. A regular meeting with the stakeholders keeps them informed about the progress of the program. This also provides a forum to discuss about the changes in the scope of the project. Some of the communication methods are: • Any resilient IP telephone & conferencing software • Telephone
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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation
• • Electronic Mail Courier Service

Communication plan identifies the types of information to be distributed to stakeholders and the mode of communication (that could use any of the methods listed above). Allocating funds: Program Manager and other management personnel should be able to forecast the expenditure for the program. Based on the estimate a budget has to be prepared that can sustain any deviations from the original scope of the program. Deviations from the original scope could result in the procurement of new software tools, hardware and increase in manpower. Deviations could also mean rendering a project redundant. In such a situation, the program must have adequate budget to sustain those losses. Establishing a procurement plan: Program Manager in consultation with the team members has to identify items that have to be procured from external suppliers. For example, in a Technical Documentation program, the items include authoring tools, computers, printers and so on. Justifications have to be made for procuring the items. The process of selecting a preferred supplier is generally by the tender process and is documented. The supplier and the Program Manager should be able to draw a schedule of delivery of the requisite items. Although external suppliers can be appointed at any stage of the program, it is recommended to appoint external suppliers prior to the development phase. Establishing a risk plan: Program Manager and other team members identify the risk associated with each aspect of the program. For example, document management software, servers, relationship between the vendors and availability of staff. Once the risks are identified, a strategy to counter the risks has to be developed and put into practice. Establishing review plans: Review is a very vital phase in any program. Conducting periodic reviews helps the Program Manager to understand the progress of the program. For a quality deliverable it is important to conduct periodic reviews during the program. The frequency of conducting reviews should be agreed upon in the Program planning stage for example, a weekly review or a fortnightly review. Such an activity will bring in a sense of responsibility among the team members as it sets “targets” or achievable goals. Periodic review with the stakeholders will ensure customer satisfaction and any changes to the program scope can be discussed and incorporated at the right time. The accuracy of a technical document benefits the organization and increases credibility among the end users. The key to any technical document is that the end users must be able to troubleshoot without consulting a Technical Specialist. Establishing milestones: In a program, it is essential to have milestones. Milestones serve as indicators that mark the completion of some major deliverable or activity. Milestones should be established in consultation with the development team, documentation team and stakeholders of the program. If any item is procured from external sources, the delivery time of the same should also be factored in while establishing milestones.

Program Development
Development phase is the longest phase in the program in terms of duration. In this phase the deliverables are developed and presented to the customer for review or acceptance. To ensure that the customer’s requirements are met, the Program Manager must monitor and control the activities, resources and expenditure required to develop a deliverable. Some management processes are implemented to ensure that the program progresses as planned. There are different stages in program development and are as follows: Preparing the deliverables: This phase typically involves preparing the deliverables for acceptance by the customer/stakeholders in the program by adding content. There are two methods to prepare the deliverables: • Waterfall method: This method is useful when there are a number of deliverables for the same program. For example, if a software application requires design documentation, installation manual, user guide, FAQ’s, Online Help and so on. In such a situation each document is sequentially prepared until the final deliverable is produced. • Iterative method: In this method, one deliverable is prepared and is reworked on until it meets the customer specifications or requirements. The other deliverables are subsequently prepared.

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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation
• Regardless of the method used, the final deliverable should be of a standard quality and meet customer requirements.

Monitor and control: While the deliverables are being prepared, PM has to monitor the progress of the team. The PM has to also monitor the time spent in undertaking each activity. If the time required is more than the stipulated time, the PM has to then ensure the availability of more resources. Cost management: Cost escalation is a common problem affecting any program. Program Manager has to control escalations by documenting the cost incurred during the program. Reasons for cost escalations could be additional manpower, hardware and software requirements. To avoid cost escalations, it is important to have good program planning. All expense related to the program has to be documented. This will help during the audit process and to keep a track on the budget. Risk management: It is important to identify the risks involved in any program and to have a strategy to minimize the effects caused by the risk. Risk monitoring is not a one-time activity rather it should be undertaken at regular intervals throughout the duration of the program. There are two kinds of risks: • Internal: These are risks that can be solved easily by the team. For example, staff assignments, training and so on. • • • External: These are risks that arise due to factors beyond the control of the team. For example, Government policies, change in the scope of the project. The risks associated with previous projects will help in identifying possible risks. The sources of this information are from: Program Files: Every organization will have files where the activities from previous projects are documented. Such a reference file will help in identifying risks not discussed during the program planning stage. In many instances, solutions to these risks are also obtained. Individual Knowledge: Individual team members may remember incidents wherein they faced a similar situation. Such information may not be reliable unless documented. The following table provides risk associated with a typical documentation project: Risk event Resource availability (manpower) Lead times for equipment, software Delivery times Migration of existing system data to new environment Changing Requirements Impact Schedule Solution Identify the resources and make them available for the program. Look for documentation vendors. Ensure the availability of Hardware/ Software after the functionality is finalized. Identify achievable program goals with milestones. Before the start of the development phase, conversion strategy will be finalized. Requirements need to be frozen and signed off before the development phase of the program.

• •

Cost

Scope Schedule

Scope

Quality management: The quality of the final deliverable has a tremendous impact on the credibility of the organization. For software applications, testing procedures have to be carried out to ensure that there are no bugs or anomalies in the application. It is a common observation that the modules, UI and other aspects of the application differ from the customer/stakeholder requirements. A good quality review/testing will remove such anomalies and deviations. Technical documents undergo: • Technical Review: In a technical review the document has to be checked for technical accuracy, consistency in the terminologies used and use of appropriate graphics. Technical accuracy has to be conducted by a person with a good grasp on the subject. For example, SME, Developers or Consultants. In a technical review, the working of the application should be compared to the instructions provided in the document.

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White Paper: Program Management Process for Technical Documentation
• Quality review/Peer review: This involves reviewing for the correct use of language, for example grammar. The document is also checked for information design, consistency and presentation. The document is prepared by adhering to Style Guide, for example Microsoft Manual of Style or the Standards and Guidelines of the customer.

Change Management: This helps you to track changes and implement them in the program in a phased manner. Technical Documentation is directly related to changes. The change in the scope could be as small as change in the UI or large like addition or deletion of a module. In such a case, the scope of the Technical Document also changes. Requests for change are made by the stakeholders/clients and must be documented. The change request document should have details like: • Change initiated • • • Reason for change Change initiated by Change authorized by

Change requests are initiated by sending e-mail or by logging in a request. This is particularly useful for programs that are separated by geographical distance. For an effective Change Management, a board could be constituted to review and decide the relevance of such a change.

Program Closure
This is the last phase in Program Management wherein the Program Manager carries out a review of the program versus the defined scope. Some of the activities at this stage include: • To determine if the scope of the program has been addressed • • • • • • • If all the deliverables have been handed over to the customer Identify if there are any outstanding activities Documentation of risks faced during the program and the solution Canceling supplier contracts Communicate program closure to vendors Release manpower to other programs/projects Communicate program closure to all stakeholders

The Program Manager prepares a Program closure document and submits the same to the stakeholders for their approval. Upon the receipt of the approval, the Program is officially declared as closed.

References
Flicker Barry, The Five Myths of Project Breakdown (and What You Can Do About it). Westland Jason- The Project Management Life Cycle Online resources www.standishgroup.com. Accessed on 28-Sep-06 www.maxwiden.com. Accessed on 26-Sep-06 www.e-programme.com Accessed on 28-Sep-06

TWB Contacts
TWB is a leading technical documentation development and design company. Should you want more information from the TWB repository of information on techniques in technical documentation please contact: Global Sales India Sales Rakesh Shukla Ranjith Radhakrishnan rakesh.shukla@twb.in ranjith.radhakrishnan@twb.in +91.9945041426 +91.9845065233

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