As 2017 nears, manufacturers are busy determining next year’s priority products and programs, budgeting projects, and determining resource needs for the upcoming year. When it comes to planning for product instructions, technical manuals, and training, most Product Managers take a guess at the hours, budget, and talent required.
This approach can be problematic. Under-estimating can wreak havoc on the product launch schedule by causing delays. This becomes a bigger problem when Product Managers have to seek additional funding, which can cause further delays while awaiting approval. On the other hand, over-estimating can dedicate unnecessary budget and resources, thus postponing other projects.
The best way to ensure accurate time and budget estimates is to utilize benchmarks. If you don’t have an accurate benchmark for each task, seek consultation with a professional technical communications firm. Beyond the knowledgeable input a technical writer or instructional designer may provide, a technical documentation and training services company will know what additional efforts to consider and include beyond strictly content development. In addition, these companies have vast experience with numerous projects under many differing circumstances.
5 Steps for Accurately Estimating a Technical Writing Project
- Familiarize yourself with the product.
Learn how the product will be used, who will be using it, user requirements, and the goals of the technical documentation or training. Being knowledgeable about the product and audience will assist with determining an accurate scope.
- Identify your scope.
Conduct a task analysis to identify all topics that need to be addressed. Create a content outline to understand the amount of information required for each. Assess the best way to deliver each topic including text, graphics, screen shots, animations, interactive exercises, etc.
- Develop a realistic expectation.
Once a task analysis has been performed, apply hourly benchmarks for each effort. Utilize industry benchmarks or benchmarks developed internally to get a realistic expectation of time required to complete the project.
- Review the technical writing skills of each team member.
Consider the skills, experience and availability of your technical communication team members. This will help determine the resources needed to complete your project on time and on budget. Less experience increases the likelihood of a technical writer taking longer to complete a specific task.
- Adjust for specific situations
There are a number of circumstances that can increase or decrease the amount of time needed for each task. For example, the availability of a subject matter expert, the amount of new versus existing content, the number of review cycles, and volume of edits as indicated by the number of reviewers. Utilize an adjustment index to account for these project-specific circumstances.
For more help estimating your technical writing project...