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Planning for the Future Workforce

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Engaging in succession planning is an important part of planning for the future workforce. Having a succession plan in place is an advantage for every leader in any organization to ensure a successful workforce in the future with good leadership, strategies, and plans in place to continue the success of the business in meeting the needs of its customers.

In her article,  Planning for Our Future Workforce: Teaching Leaders to Prepare for Succession,  Sue Plaster, M.Ed., discusses how educators can work with today’s leaders to do action-oriented succession planning, through dialogue with one another, while reaching a degree of consensus in their plans. She also provides some tips in terms of what to focus on during succession planning and management activities. You will also learn about development planning and the role of training.

Read Planning for Our Future Workforce: Teaching Leaders to Prepare for Succession and then leave a comment here with your thoughts. Have you engaged in—or trained leaders in—succession planning?

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Keeping Your Head When a Project’s Wheels Fall Off

17th July 2014 Posted in Blog, Planning, Project Management 0 Comments

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A recent collaborative article on TC World from technical writer Martin Brüggemann and project manager Diana Rehberg offers some really good advice for effective project management. Specifically, it talks about what to do when things throw a wrench into your previously smooth-running project. Additionally, it provides some advice on how to avoid such problems in the first place.

In part, the piece discusses:

  • Questions to ask before pulling together the project plan
  • Allowing for tolerances within the plan
  • Recognizing problems
  • The kind of feedback you should look for during the project
  • What to do when your project is wavering

One of the best pieces of advice in the article talks about something we all know but all too often forget:

“Hardly any project runs completely without problems. Right from the beginning be prepared that there will be problems and difficulties and then you are not caught off-guard.”

Related topic:
Using Metrics to Plan Documentation Projects

Care to share some of your project nightmares or successes? What did you do and what did you learn when planning subsequent projects? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

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An Excel Template for Planning Documentation Projects

15th January 2014 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Planning, Project Management 0 Comments

MS Excel Template for Planning Documentation Projects

Planning for and estimating the resources needed to complete a documentation project can be a daunting task at times for documentation managers and specialists as well as independent consultants. What if a tool was available that could:

  • Help you prepare more accurate project estimates.
  • Provide a clear and specific explanation when things take longer than they “should have.”
  • Give you a way to justify new resources, budget for contractors, or to just say “no.”
  • Assist in making strategic decisions.

Now, what if that tool was a template for MS Excel? Would you try it out and take it for a test run?

Margie Yundt and Sherry McMenemy have created a template that can help you better plan documentation projects. They explain the process and the thinking beyond the tool they’ve created in their article, It’s in the Numbers: Using Metrics to Plan Documentation Projects. There’s also a link in the article for you to download the Excel template.

We encourage you to read the article and take the template for a spin. Then leave a comment here with your thoughts on this template or additional tools you’ve found useful for estimating documentation projects.

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One Brainstorming Idea for Writers

11th October 2012 Posted in Blog, Planning, Writing 4 Comments

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All writers get to the point where they simply feel they’ve run out of ideas. Whether they’re burnt out or simply can’t find a new angle to pursue, the moment of a blank mind can happen to anyone. How you work through this and whether you can work through this is what makes you a (successful) writer.

Many writers have ways to prevent this sort of problem from happening, but it never hurts to have some brainstorming tools ready. One of the best tools to start using today is the bubble method, sometimes called the cloud method.


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One Writer’s Take on the Process of Technical Writing

2nd April 2011 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Planning 0 Comments
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What can technical writers teach and learn from others? Plenty, it seems. Will Kelly is a technical writer who maintains a technical writing blog in his spare time.

In a March 13, 2011 post, he described his process for writing technical documents. For those looking for ways to improve their writing or begin to assess their technical writing team, this can provide a simple outline of how the writing work can be managed.

This is the outline that he follows, depending on the final product he needs to create:


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Measuring Technical Writer Productivity

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the images, charts, and tables were hosted on another site, which no longer exists, and over which we have no control. However, the link to download the spreadsheet (the click here link just before the PRODUCTIVITY IS RELATIVE heading) still works. The entire article, including images and tables, was available for STC members and once was publicly available in PDF format but is no longer available either.

by: Pam Swanwick and Juliet Wells Leckenby

Every manager struggles to balance writer workload and project capacity. A simple spreadsheet-based system can help you objectively evaluate assigned tasks, task time and complexity, special projects, and even writer experience levels to more accurately assess individual workload and capacity. The result is a simple but useful representational graph.

In addition to measuring current team capacity and productivity, this method also provides objective metrics to better estimate future project capacity and to support performance evaluations for individual writers.


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Planning Your Staffing Needs for the New Year

17th December 2010 Posted in Blog, Human Resources (HR), Planning, Staffing 0 Comments
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The new year is almost upon us. And, if the end of 2010 is any indication, there are clear signs that business is picking up.

It’s the time of year when you need to think past the holidays and put your plans in motion for staffing your teams to make sure projects go smoothly and that you’ll be able to meet the building demand in the year ahead.

How a Staffing Agency Can Help

If you’re going to need to add staff – either permanent or contract – a staffing agency like Writing Assistance, Inc. can be a great partner to have on your team. We have a very large database of skilled workers in the following areas:

Most hiring companies turn to a staffing agency after their plans are in place. What many don’t realize is that you can also get help during the planning phases even before you post a position.For example, our Guide to Estimating Writing Projects is an informative 3-page chart that can help you estimate various projects in terms of hours. Projects include technical manuals, user guides, web content, brochures, CBT’s and more. To get this useful guide instantly, just complete the very short form on our home page.

Our staffing reps are very knowledgeable in the marketplace for the professions in which we specialize. They’ll be happy to discuss your needs with you and help you in any way they can in preparing your manpower budget. You can call us toll free at 877-392-9772 to discuss your needs with one of our helpful representatives.

The team here at Writing Assistance wishes you and yours a happy and safe holiday season, as well as a happy, healthy and prosperous new year for 2011!

Scott Hartmann, President

Related helpful staffing topics:

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Technical Writing Resolutions for 2011

16th December 2010 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Planning, Technical Writers 4 Comments
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A new year means you get the chance to do things over, to do things better. Whether you’ve been happy with your technical writing team or you think things should improve, it’s time to look back on the past year to see what needs to improve and what needs to be removed from your company for the year ahead. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.

Update Your Software

If you’re still using the old versions of your software, it may be time for an upgrade. When you use old software, you produce possibly dated and unprofessional looking results and you don’t get to take advantage of new or enhanced features. Plus, you may be leaving yourself or your company exposed to security risks.

Look at the software you are using and ask the technical writers when they last updated. If it’s been more than a year, it might be time for a new piece of software or at least an upgrade, where available. Talking with the people who actually use the software often will help you to assess what you actually need and what can wait until a new budget period.

Update Your Standards

Yes, even technical writing styles need to change from year to year. It’s a good idea to start by evaluating the standards you have in place and see whether they might be improved. Again, talking to senior technical writers on your team can help you begin to see what needs to be changed and what might not.

For example, if you have a standard about when to use boldface print and it’s just too distracting, then you might want to look into changing that. Additionally, AP recently updated its style guide for website as a single, non-capitalized word. Times change. Usage changes.

Start a New Testing System

At the same time, you need to be aware of the end users too since they are the ones that will be using the final technical writing products. By creating a new testing system that will help you find out whether a program or guide works or not, you will have a safeguard in place to ensure that only effective and accurate technical writing will make it to the users. In the same vein, if you don’t have a formal peer review process in place for your writers, the new year could be a great time to develop and implement one.

The new year is a great time to start fresh, and that includes your technical writing. Time to break some bad habits, pick up some good habits, and hopefully make sure your improvements last beyond February, unlike most other resolutions that barely make it through the month.

What are some of your technical writing team’s resolutions for 2011 or resolutions you’re planning as a tech writing freelancer? We’d love to hear them – leave a comment!

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5 Questions to Ask When Creating a Documentation Group

Being asked to take the reins of a brand new documentation department is a challenge that many professional technical writers relish, even though the training and development activities they participated in may never have prepared them for such a rewarding challenge. This article looks at forming a new documentation department, team or group and determining what’s needed, when it’s needed and what resources are available to help the new group carry out its mission.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself While Creating a New Documentation Department

by Eric Butow

Congratulations! You’re the manager of your company’s emerging documentation department — and your work has just begun. To create effective documentation for your customers, you not only have to build a sound team, but also build working relationships with all other departments in your company.

In my contracting travels, I’ve set up two new documentation departments in two very different settings. My first was a documentation department for a startup networking software company in 1999. The company’s only previous documentation was a slim manual written by a programmer.

In 2004, I helped set up a new documentation department at the financial aid division for a major bank. Over the years, this division had been passed along to different parent banks — the newest of which was shocked to find that no one had written documentation about financial-aid processes, and no documentation about the software they had used during the division’s last 20 years! As a result, the new parent organization decided that relying on the institutional memories of its employees was a major risk, so the documentation department was born.

When you create your own documentation department, you should ask yourself five simple questions that will help your new department show its value to the company as quickly as possible. These questions are similar to those that a good reporter must answer when documenting a story — who, what, where, why, and how? — and they are as important for a documentation department manager as they are for an ace journalist.

The questions are:

Read the full article

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Workforce Planning Conference Coming Up in Chicago


Event: Workforce Planning Conference 2010
When: Monday, June 14 through Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Location: Chicago, IL

Sponsored by the Human Capital Institute (HCI), the second annual 2010 Workforce Planning Conference is designed with senior executives in HR, talent management and planning in mind. Since the economic downturn began, planning for future workforce needs has become more difficult than ever.

The conference is set to discuss the issues of workforce planning in challenging times. According to HCI:

“Rapid reorganizations, whether through downsizing or M&A activity, have made it difficult for companies to understand their current talent pool. Developing a hiring plan that accounts for a wide range of future scenarios is even harder. While many firms see the downturn as an opportunity to build a competitive advantage by acquiring top talent, this effort must be carefully guided by strategic workforce planning, with careful attention being paid to the alignment of talent with future business goals.

Conference Links
Conference Brochure
Meet the Presenters

Register Online

Also of Interest
Potential Position Descriptions for Information Engineering Professionals
What to Consider When Hiring a Technical Writer

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