It’s the New Year and it’s time to implement your Documentation Plan. As the Technical Writing Services Manager, you check your department’s workload against your available resources. It’s evident that outsourcing some of your technical writing services projects will allow you to meet your established deadlines and stay within budget or even reduce overall department costs. The decision now is how to best put your Documentation Plan into action.
Hopefully, you’ve already established a partnership with a technical writing services vendor that specializes in your industry. If not, begin the selection process by asking colleagues for recommendations. Base your final decision on the technical writing services vendor’s track record of success and if the vendor will work with you as a partner, fit into your company's strategic plan, and provide client-centered solutions.
Outsourcing your technical documentation doesn’t mean you have to give up control. When you outsource technical writing services, you’re paying for the end product. As such, you get to set the expectations, deliverables, time lines, and budget. Developing a formal Statement of Work (SOW) to document deliverables, scope, and responsibilities is a best-practice for any outsourced project. Once the SOW is signed by both the client and the vendor, it serves as a contract that defines and identifies the project’s expectations and objectives.
During your initial meeting with the vendor, discuss:
- What needs to be accomplished?
- What tasks must be completed to achieve the desired results?
- What resources are required and who will perform each task (for example, project manager, subject matter expert (SME), technical writer, graphic designer, and technical editor)?
- Are there any standards and/or regulations that must be followed?
- What will the process be for overseeing the work and keeping it on schedule? Be sure to include some flexibility in the schedule for tasks that might take longer than anticipated.
- How conflicts will be resolved?
- What are the deliverables, and what is their expected delivery time line?
Benefits associated with the time and effort invested in developing a well-written SOW:
- Provides both the client and the vendor with the written information needed to better execute the project, eliminating assumptions that may cause conflict later on.
- Allows the vendor to clearly understand what needs to be done on the client’s project and to better estimate associated costs.
- Reduces or eliminates the need for change of scope and/or revised pricing requests, which can increase the overall cost of the project.
5 Tips for Putting your Documentation Plan into Action
Before committing to outsourcing any technical writing services project, review the following:
- Clearly define the scope of work of your project and your deadlines. Will you need an individual technical writer or a team of writers? Will a project manager be assigned? Will the technical writer be starting from scratch or adding to existing material? During the project life cycle, will your SMEs be available for interviews as well as to review and approve content? What project milestones have been established? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you identify the level of expertise your project requires and enable the technical writing services vendor you choose to exceed your expectations.
- Spell out individual responsibilities. Define each team member’s obligations carefully and specifically. Do not infer a responsibility. Use the term shall to identify mandated actions.
- Spell out all standards and regulations to be followed. This is especially critical if your documentation departments operates in a regulated environment such as medical devices and food services.
- Include standards of measurements. Include standards that will make performance measurements and acceptance possible and meaningful.
- Obtain proper sign offs. Once signed, the SOW becomes a binding contract between the client and the vendor.
For additional tips on creating a formal SOW document, refer to our previous post Technical Writing Services: Defining the Game Plan.
Share your experiences using an SOW for your outsourced technical writing services in the comments below.
Novatek recommends using an SOW template to put your Documentation Plan into action. Don't know where to start?