Agile programming has grown in popularity, and it has lead to new challenges for those involved in providing User Assistance for those applications.
So is it time for Technical Authors to develop an equivalent method for developing content for these projects? Is it time to develop an “Agile authoring” methodology?
Such a method needs to complement Agile programming, but it may be a mistake to take Agile programming as the starting point for developing it. The developers of Agile drew upon the principles of Lean manufacturing, and perhaps Technical Authors should do the same.
What would we be likely to see in such a method? Here are some suggestions:
- One piece flow. Information is moved through the process in the smallest batches possible. For example, translators and reviewers receive content topic by topic (or chapter by chapter).
- Minimalist manuals. Only the information that adds value to the user, or increases their productivity, is included.
- Incremental publishing of content (and frequent builds of drafts).
- Documentation sprints through collaborative authoring.
- Rigorous testing and measurement of the value of the documentation.
- “Stop the line”. Authors have the right to stop the development of software if they spot a critical mistake or if they are overburdened with work.
- Separation of “look and feel” from content, to enable adaptation to change.
- Iterative updates to the content.
- Close daily cooperation and communication with the development team.
- Removal of “waste”, such as waiting for new information or overload of work.
- Buy-in and commitment from all the stakeholders of the value and need for the User Assistance.
What would you envisage an Agile authoring methodology to contain?
Addendum: A further point for the list:
- Creating information that reduces “waste” at the user’s end. In Japanese, there are the concepts of go no sen (reacting), sen no sen (a simultaneous response) and sensen no sen (preempting). Writers could aim for sen no sen or ultimately sensen no sen –providing information that preempts problems.