Undocumented Procedures

Subject: Undocumented Procedures
From: Richard Lippincott <rlippinc -at- BEV -dot- ETN -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 13:37:12 EDT

I think I need a sanity check. I'm going around in circles in a dis-
cussion with my boss, and I want to get some feedback on my

Background: I'm revising an operating manual for our product. The
current manual is a three-volume set, about 525 pages total
(including appendices). It's not really well organized from a user's
point of view, various level tasks are mixed in with each other. As
an example, there is no single place in the book where you can
find the basic step-by-step info for a novice user to do a basic
machine operation. The data -is- all in there....somewhere. I agree
that a major reorganization is required.

In addition to this reorganization, we're issuing a major software
release in a couple of months. Everything in the operating system
will look different.

We're splitting the book up so that tasks are grouped by the user's
ability level. Level one is a basic operator, level four is an expert.
We'll publish a book with all level one and two procedures, a book
of all level three procedures, and a book of level four procedures.
(I've over simplified a bit, but please bear with me). So far, so

The boss is all hot on getting the Level 1 & 2 book out, and has ini-
tiated work on the Level 4 book. But the Level 3 stuff is being
intentionally back-burnered. We probably won't issue a level 3
book until at least 6 months (maybe longer) after the software
release. The level 3 procedures total about 265 out of those 525

Based on the software release schedule, I should be able to
update all the pages, so that's not the problem. The boss has "big-
ger and better" plans for the Level 3 work (including troubleshoot-
ing data that has never been developed), and he doesn't want to
release the book until all this "vision" stuff is ready. I say that we're
doing the customer a disservice by releasing software and deliber-
ately choosing to omit significant procedures. His argument:
"That's the stuff they only do a couple of times each year. It's not
that important."

So, what's the Techwhirler's reactions?

Rick Lippincott
Eaton Semiconductor
Beverly, MA
rlippinc -at- bev -dot- etn -dot- com

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