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Kick-Start Your Product Documentation Plan with Effective Project Estimating

product-management-project-estimate_NovatekFor product managers planning for a technical documentation project, there are key budget and timeline questions that have to be answered before kickoff:
  • How long will this technical writing project will take?
  • How many writers are needed to complete your project? 
  • What is the project budget?
  • Can you realistically handle the project in-house or do you need to consider outsourcing to a technical documentation services firm?

To effectively manage a technical documentation project and reduce the risk of scope creep, estimations of resources, time, cost, and extras need to be factored into the technical documentation plan. Whether a product manager has years of experience or they are new to the project planning process, a credible project estimate is key to technical documentation project preparation.

There is no exact formula for estimating a technical documentation project; it is a combination of a learned process and experience. Your estimation should be flexible to accommodate changes in project scope, but detailed enough to provide control over your documentation projects. Use the tips below to effectively build a project estimate:

10 Tips for Estimating Your Technical Documentation Project

  1. Use a template that identifies all the areas you need to consider. Determine if you need a style guide and who would provide it.
  2. Confirm all regulations and standards that must be followed. If you're working in a regulated industry compliance is critical to developing technical documentation.
  3. Make sure the data you are working with is valid. Reviewing past technical writing projects can help you learn from best practices and mistakes.
  4. Identify all tasks that need to be performed. Task-based work logs are one of the most effective ways to get all the information you need to estimate a technical documentation project. Make sure team members identify specific tasks while they’re doing them and identify how long it takes to complete each task.

    Download our guide for estimating project task hours for better tracking.

  5. Determine the project’s scope and time line. Identify exactly what you’re expected to do, what your deliverables are, and the scheduled date of delivery.
  6. Consider the experience and availability of your resources. Review the technical writing skills of each team member. Less experience increases the likelihood of a technical writer taking longer to complete a specific task, risking time line and budget. This is important to determining your decision on using in-house resources or outsourcing to a technical documentation team.
  7. Develop realistic expectations. Base your project estimates on valid data. And, always budget for the unexpected.
  8. Familiarize yourself with the product. Identify the goals of development, any user requirements they are trying to meet, how the product will be used, and who will be using it.
  9. Include a provision for scope creep. There will be unexpected challenges during the project. Allow time and budget flexibility to accommodate this.
  10. Reviewing past technical documentation projects. You can learn best practices and mistakes to avoid by looking through others' examples. Interviewing your team about similar projects can identify process gaps and solutions.

For more help managing your technical documentation project...

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Topics: outsourcing, documentation, product documentation