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Towards an
Agile Authoring
methodology:
Learning from
Lean
Ellis Pratt
@ellispratt
May 2016
ISTC Southern Area
Group
Overview
1. About me
2. What is Agile?
3. What is Lean?
4. A Lean view of technical
writing
5. Towards an Agile
methodolog...
About me
About me
Director at Cherryleaf, a technical writing
services and training company in the UK
I’m also on the ISTC’s Manage...
And also
I wrote my dissertation on
“A Systems analysis of
manufacturing production
methods”
What started me on this
journey
Agile is problematic for
technical communicators
What started me on this
journey
“What's just enough
documentation?”
Dom Smith PhD, Red Gate
Software
Mark Eaton CEng BSc M...
I wondered
Could Lean help address
some of the challenges of
working in an Agile
environment?
What is Agile?
Features of Agile
Self-directing, collaborative
teams
Early, frequent and continuous
releases
Iterations and cycles
Lesson...
Defer commitment
Decide as late as possible
Particularly decisions that are
irreversible (or at least will be
impractical ...
Active user involvement Is
imperative
So the right product is
delivered
Requirements evolve, but
timescales are fixed
The scope of an Agile
Development project is
variable
Deliver only what adds value
It’s not the process the
customer drives, it’s the car
Agile’s effect on writing
Changing requirements and
rework
Sizing a project is difficult
The is the concept of
“Document la...
Starting the documentation
project
Initiation
Specs and
design
Build
Test
Launch
Post launch
Common
starting point
Iterati...
What is Lean?
What is Lean?
A process for making things
Based on the Toyota
Production System
Used today in healthcare,
programming and ...
What is Lean?
A relative of Agile &
Six Sigma methodologies
Lean in a nutshell
Maximise value to the
customer
Minimise waste
Waste in Lean
1.Waiting
2.Over processing
3.Rework and correcting
4.Moving things
5.Processing waste
6.Inventory
7.Talent ...
We’ll focus on the three
original wastes
Muda
Not adding value to the
user
Muri
Overburden
Too difficult / Too much
Mura
Un...
Optimise the whole, not the
parts
Optimise the whole value
stream, not just individual
functions or teams
This leads to co...
Lean activities
for maximising value
Value Stream Mapping
Voice of The Customer
One piece flow
Instead of batch processing
(even though it’s
counterintuitive)
You’ll spot errors much more
quickly
Image: ...
Andon cord
If there is a problem,
anyone can stop the
production line
Discovering the root cause of
a problem
Discover the root cause of
a problem using “5 Whys”
Offer a proportionate
intermed...
Hoshin Kanri
Aka policy deployment
A method for ensuring that
the strategic goals of a
company drive progress
and action a...
A Lean project plan
Is there a
compelling need
to do the work?
Current state
Implementation
plan
How we
measure
success
De...
Questions a Lean consultant
would ask
Will the client pay for it to be
produced?
If they won’t pay, is it essential
waste?...
Are you ʻprocessing wasteʼ?
Do you have an efficient
process, but you’re
producing something that
add little value to the u...
Questions a Lean consultant
would ask
Can it significantly improve
productivity?
How can we tell?
Measure to discover what
really adds value
Verify your assumptions
A Lean view of
technical writing
Do you have an inefficient
process?
Waiting
Over processing
Rework and correcting
Moving things
Inventory
Talent misused
Im...
Waste - for the user
Content that’s not needed or
Doesn’t meet their needs
Too difficult or detailed
Delays in finding infor...
Waste - for the writer
Creating content that’s not
needed
Editing/multiple draftsToo much work and
Not enough time
Delays ...
Common types of waste in
content
“Waste in formatting -
formatting and reformatting
and re-reformatting
Waste in informati...
How do you measure quality
in content?
Useful
Writing quality - mechanics and
grammar
Usable - ease of access to
informati...
Towards an Agile
methodology
Your role in Agile
Docs are a team
responsibility
You should be one team
Docs should be part of
the definition of Done
Docs should be part of
...
Treat documentation as code
You are a developer (of
content)
Add your tasks to the
Kanban board
Treat reviews and edits as...
Treat documentation as code
Make sure your Task scope is
clear
Include the feature number
and the User Story reference
num...
Agile is a team sport
There should be mutual
respect for all team members,
including you
Take an active role
in
User Stories
Sprint Planning
Scrums
Grooming (fixing errors)
Retrospectives
The Technical Writer’s role
Can also be a good project
manager for the whole Agile
project
Not so emotionally attached to
...
Run doc sprints
Be the content strategist
“Gather it
Organise it
Share it
It’s what you’re good at”
Sarah Maddox, Technical Writer, Google
Optimise the whole
Define content standards
across the company
Identify the origins of
information and use them
Streamline ...
Deliverables
Minimal Viable Product
“Just-In-Time Documentation
Also Means Just Enough”
Anne Gentle
Anne Gentle. 2007. Writing End-User...
An iterative publishing
process
Minimum viable product
Incremental release
Service à la russe
Prior to product release?
Ea...
Novels have been serialised
"The Strand Magazine (cover), vol. 73, April 1927" by Special Collections Toronto Public Libra...
Minimal Viable Product
Triage to Support or to the
documentation
“Runners, Repeaters and
Strangers”
Image © Mark Eaton
Load balancing
Key stages in the project
Initiation
Specs
and
design
Build
Test
Launch
Post
launch
Ideal
starting point
Doc
planning
One piece flow
Review topics as soon as
possible?
Translate as soon as a topic
is completed (costly
rework)?
Publish as soo...
Defer commitment
Store content in a flexible format
that allows for multiple types of
output.
Keep your options open on
del...
Topic-based authoring
You can re-use content
You can rearrange content
Image: Kai Weber
Who does the work?
Try and even out the workload
Federated Help system
Find a long term partner
Developers may need to
cre...
Tools
Andon
Swarm around the problem
No more coding until
documentation is fixed?
Tricky if you are using
specialist tools
Make it easy for developers
to collaborate
Set standards
Provide guidelines
Provide templates
Enable them to use their own...
Developer friendly tools
Markdown
MadCap Contributor
GitHub
JIRA
Lightweight DITA?
Resources
Did you know?
There is an ISO standard for
writing user documentation for
Agile projects
SO/IEC 26515:2011 Developing
user...
Salesforce.com
http://blogs.developerforce.com/tech-pubs/2013/02/a-writers-guide-to-surviving-agile-software-
development....
Summary
What are the takeaways?
Lean is a useful way to
position UA in an Agile
environment
Helps you identify when
“document late...
An Agile authoring manifesto
One piece flow
Minimalist manuals
Iterative updates to the content &
Incremental publishing of...
Questions
For more information
ellis@cherryleaf.com
@ellispratt
End
© Cherryleaf 2016
Images and
screenshots © their
respective owners
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Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean

Presentation to ISTC Southern Area Group.

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Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean

  1. 1. Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean Ellis Pratt @ellispratt May 2016 ISTC Southern Area Group
  2. 2. Overview 1. About me 2. What is Agile? 3. What is Lean? 4. A Lean view of technical writing 5. Towards an Agile methodology 6. Resources Image: Tim Peake
  3. 3. About me
  4. 4. About me Director at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company in the UK I’m also on the ISTC’s Management Council
  5. 5. And also I wrote my dissertation on “A Systems analysis of manufacturing production methods”
  6. 6. What started me on this journey Agile is problematic for technical communicators
  7. 7. What started me on this journey “What's just enough documentation?” Dom Smith PhD, Red Gate Software Mark Eaton CEng BSc MSc MBA FIET FIOM FRAS (and holder of the Viscount Nuffield Medal)
  8. 8. I wondered Could Lean help address some of the challenges of working in an Agile environment?
  9. 9. What is Agile?
  10. 10. Features of Agile Self-directing, collaborative teams Early, frequent and continuous releases Iterations and cycles Lessons learnt - teams continuously examine and evolve their own processes
  11. 11. Defer commitment Decide as late as possible Particularly decisions that are irreversible (or at least will be impractical to reverse)
  12. 12. Active user involvement Is imperative So the right product is delivered
  13. 13. Requirements evolve, but timescales are fixed The scope of an Agile Development project is variable
  14. 14. Deliver only what adds value It’s not the process the customer drives, it’s the car
  15. 15. Agile’s effect on writing Changing requirements and rework Sizing a project is difficult The is the concept of “Document late” to avoid waste (but this can cause waste elsewhere) There’s no time
  16. 16. Starting the documentation project Initiation Specs and design Build Test Launch Post launch Common starting point Iteration Zero Consolidation sprints
  17. 17. What is Lean?
  18. 18. What is Lean? A process for making things Based on the Toyota Production System Used today in healthcare, programming and other areas
  19. 19. What is Lean? A relative of Agile & Six Sigma methodologies
  20. 20. Lean in a nutshell Maximise value to the customer Minimise waste
  21. 21. Waste in Lean 1.Waiting 2.Over processing 3.Rework and correcting 4.Moving things 5.Processing waste 6.Inventory 7.Talent misused 8.Not meeting customer’s requirements Lean breaks waste down into 7 (or 8) categories
  22. 22. We’ll focus on the three original wastes Muda Not adding value to the user Muri Overburden Too difficult / Too much Mura Unevenness Waiting
  23. 23. Optimise the whole, not the parts Optimise the whole value stream, not just individual functions or teams This leads to complete, multi- disciplined, co-located product teams Image: RMI.org
  24. 24. Lean activities for maximising value Value Stream Mapping Voice of The Customer
  25. 25. One piece flow Instead of batch processing (even though it’s counterintuitive) You’ll spot errors much more quickly Image: Geoff Rixon
  26. 26. Andon cord If there is a problem, anyone can stop the production line
  27. 27. Discovering the root cause of a problem Discover the root cause of a problem using “5 Whys” Offer a proportionate intermediate fix, esp. if the cause is at the customer’s side Pete Abilla
  28. 28. Hoshin Kanri Aka policy deployment A method for ensuring that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and action at every level within that company Assumes mutual respect for people
  29. 29. A Lean project plan Is there a compelling need to do the work? Current state Implementation plan How we measure success Desired state Result from change Risks, limitations, issues Roles and responsibilities Lessons learnt
  30. 30. Questions a Lean consultant would ask Will the client pay for it to be produced? If they won’t pay, is it essential waste? (A compelling need, like tests and inspections)
  31. 31. Are you ʻprocessing wasteʼ? Do you have an efficient process, but you’re producing something that add little value to the user? (This is a key issue in Agile)
  32. 32. Questions a Lean consultant would ask Can it significantly improve productivity?
  33. 33. How can we tell? Measure to discover what really adds value Verify your assumptions
  34. 34. A Lean view of technical writing
  35. 35. Do you have an inefficient process? Waiting Over processing Rework and correcting Moving things Inventory Talent misused Image: Pizza Express
  36. 36. Waste - for the user Content that’s not needed or Doesn’t meet their needs Too difficult or detailed Delays in finding information
  37. 37. Waste - for the writer Creating content that’s not needed Editing/multiple draftsToo much work and Not enough time Delays in approving & publishing content
  38. 38. Common types of waste in content “Waste in formatting - formatting and reformatting and re-reformatting Waste in information development - end users do not want or need what’s being produced Waste in delivery - information cannot be used by end user because it’s not in the right language or the right format Waste in review - oh, so much waste in the review cycles” http://www.scriptorium.com/2015/09/lean-content-strategy/
  39. 39. How do you measure quality in content? Useful Writing quality - mechanics and grammar Usable - ease of access to information Free of defects (technical accuracy) Completeness Conciseness Findable
  40. 40. Towards an Agile methodology
  41. 41. Your role in Agile
  42. 42. Docs are a team responsibility You should be one team Docs should be part of the definition of Done Docs should be part of the review process Image: St Helens RFC
  43. 43. Treat documentation as code You are a developer (of content) Add your tasks to the Kanban board Treat reviews and edits as “calibrations” and “defects” Use the same tools as the developers, wherever possible Robert Hays, eBay Enterprises
  44. 44. Treat documentation as code Make sure your Task scope is clear Include the feature number and the User Story reference number in the topic titles So there is close tracking of topics to code development
  45. 45. Agile is a team sport There should be mutual respect for all team members, including you
  46. 46. Take an active role in User Stories Sprint Planning Scrums Grooming (fixing errors) Retrospectives
  47. 47. The Technical Writer’s role Can also be a good project manager for the whole Agile project Not so emotionally attached to the code Can represent the user Image: Atlassian
  48. 48. Run doc sprints
  49. 49. Be the content strategist “Gather it Organise it Share it It’s what you’re good at” Sarah Maddox, Technical Writer, Google
  50. 50. Optimise the whole Define content standards across the company Identify the origins of information and use them Streamline the workflow Image: Joe Gollner
  51. 51. Deliverables
  52. 52. Minimal Viable Product “Just-In-Time Documentation Also Means Just Enough” Anne Gentle Anne Gentle. 2007. Writing End-User Documentation in an Agile Development Environment Retrieved May 2015 from http://justwriteclick.com/2007/07/02/writing-end-user-documentation-
  53. 53. An iterative publishing process Minimum viable product Incremental release Service à la russe Prior to product release? Early adopters happy to work out some things themselves Image: Cafe Gallay Geneva
  54. 54. Novels have been serialised "The Strand Magazine (cover), vol. 73, April 1927" by Special Collections Toronto Public Library - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 43021516@N06/8346257651/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:The_Strand_Magazine_(cover),_vol._73,_April_1927.jpg#/media/File:The_Strand_Magazine_(cover),_vol._73,_April_1927.jpg "Alltheyearround 1891" by Chapman & Hall - Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alltheyearround_1891.jpg#/media/File:Alltheyearround_1891.jpg
  55. 55. Minimal Viable Product Triage to Support or to the documentation “Runners, Repeaters and Strangers” Image © Mark Eaton
  56. 56. Load balancing
  57. 57. Key stages in the project Initiation Specs and design Build Test Launch Post launch Ideal starting point Doc planning
  58. 58. One piece flow Review topics as soon as possible? Translate as soon as a topic is completed (costly rework)? Publish as soon as a topic is completed?
  59. 59. Defer commitment Store content in a flexible format that allows for multiple types of output. Keep your options open on deliverable formats. Be open to adding new content based on user feedback or other new information. Assess L18N requirements regularly as business conditions change. Look at a list of supported languages as an evolving set, not as set in stone forever.
  60. 60. Topic-based authoring You can re-use content You can rearrange content Image: Kai Weber
  61. 61. Who does the work? Try and even out the workload Federated Help system Find a long term partner Developers may need to create the code examples Have clear requirements Developers should not abdicate responsibility Image: Atlassian
  62. 62. Tools
  63. 63. Andon Swarm around the problem No more coding until documentation is fixed? Tricky if you are using specialist tools
  64. 64. Make it easy for developers to collaborate Set standards Provide guidelines Provide templates Enable them to use their own tools Share the same issue tracker Share the same review tool?
  65. 65. Developer friendly tools Markdown MadCap Contributor GitHub JIRA Lightweight DITA?
  66. 66. Resources
  67. 67. Did you know? There is an ISO standard for writing user documentation for Agile projects SO/IEC 26515:2011 Developing user documentation in an agile environment Photo: Cerys Willoughby
  68. 68. Salesforce.com http://blogs.developerforce.com/tech-pubs/2013/02/a-writers-guide-to-surviving-agile-software- development.html Write bottom up, plan later Write fiction Revise fiction Be wrong Run blitzes to fix errors in doct’n Build templates Ask questions at scrum meetings Volunteer for other tasks Take the role of an additional quality engineer Self-organize and barter for time
  69. 69. Summary
  70. 70. What are the takeaways? Lean is a useful way to position UA in an Agile environment Helps you identify when “document late” is a bad idea, as a result of other wastes not considered by Agile. Both make problems visible
  71. 71. An Agile authoring manifesto One piece flow Minimalist manuals Iterative updates to the content & Incremental publishing of content (and frequent builds of drafts) Documentation sprints Collaborative authoring Rigorous testing and measurement of the value of the documentation Separation of “look and feel” “Stop the line” 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
  72. 72. Questions
  73. 73. For more information ellis@cherryleaf.com @ellispratt
  74. 74. End © Cherryleaf 2016 Images and screenshots © their respective owners

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