Novatek helps manufacturers prepare for product launches by ensuring that all user audiences have the appropriate and accurate knowledge needed to use, service, or sell the equipment/device. In their quest to learn the best practices for success, manufacturers from small to large frequently ask similar questions.
Today's blog focuses on scheduling product launch documentation and training most effectively. Based on 25 years' experience, here are Novatek's most frequently asked questions and answers.
Frequently Asked Scheduling Questions
1. When should we start planning and developing manuals and training for our new product?
The planning phase for technical manuals and training should occur as part of the product launch planning. All too often, the documentation and training activities are estimated or occur as an after-thought, which results in strained technical writing and training resources or compromised quality as the launch date approaches. The product launch plan should include all work activities required to produce the technical documentation and training so that the schedule accurately reflects the necessary effort and teammates can prepare for timely input sessions, reviews, and approvals.
Development of the product manuals should start as early as possible in the product development lifecycle. Certainly, there must be a product or prototype to observe or use, but by no means does the product have to be complete. Professional technical writers will create a Documentation Plan that includes a schedule built on which features and functionality are stable and which are still in development. Because technical manuals have various sections and include numerous procedures, a professional technical writer can work non-linearly to get a head start on sections that include stable functionality, while making notes of other sections that have dependencies.
As mentioned in a previous blog, FAQs for Ensuring Your Technical Manuals and Training Work in Harmony, Novatek recommends developing your product's technical manuals and training in tandem so that the structure, design, and "voice" are cohesive, the knowledge is leveraged to save time and money, and the procedures can be tested during training to provide a real-world perspective on its usability.
2. How do I estimate the time required for documentation and training so the Product Launch Plan doesn't squeeze the development schedule?
To ensure your product launch schedule includes appropriate time for documentation and training, follow these steps:
- Write down all the activities in the technical documentation and training workflow in sequential order
- For all the technical writing or instructional design development activities, estimate the hours needed to collect input and write each topic. For estimated hours of documentation project tasks, download our free guide:
Documentation Estimate Guide
- For all the review activities, estimate the days reviewers will need to receive, review, and return their review comments to you. If you have more than one reviewer, consider the workload and schedules of each review and use the longest cycle time.
- Plot all the activity hours on a calendar, being mindful of holidays, planned days off, and other deadlines. Consider which activities can occur simultaneously and which activities have dependencies.
- Provide the schedule in number of days (not specific dates because those may change) to the product launch planning team.
3. At what stage do companies usually bring in an outsourced partner for documentation and training?
In the industries we support - medical device and other complex equipment - there is a trend to focus on core competencies to manufacture, launch, and support products and outsource all other services or functions that are not core competencies. Therefore, the ability to carefully select and sustain strategic outsourcing relationships is increasingly critical to competitive success. Frequently, however, outsourcing decisions and relationships are handled in an ad hoc, trial-and-error manner.
To ensure you are selecting the right outsourced technical communications partner at the right stage, it is important to determine what type of outsourcing relationship you need and the time required to build that relationship. If you are look for a strategic partner, engage potential partners as soon as you've identified strategic sourcing priorities so the time required to learn capabilities, interview, and select a partner is not compromised by an urgent need.
If you are looking to fulfill short-term need or fix immediate problem, contact an outsourced technical communications provider as soon as the need is identified. Even if your team is not ready for the outsourced partner to provide assistance right away, time will be required for the outsourced partner to check availaibility and assign individuals with the right skills and fit to your project. Once the individual or team has been identified, don't underestimate the time it takes to get them up to speed. Regulated environments often require safety training and training on necessary Standard Operating Procedures and any newcomer will need to understand your document structure, templates, naming conventions, and file management.
Stay tuned for more FAQs asked during other stages of product launch.