The Politics of Dancing

So this morning I focused pretty intently upon documentation for my patron of the arts.  I’ve been wrapping up some iOS-based Work Management software.  What can I say?  When I quit IT, I never quite quit IT.  It’s like the mafia… just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.

Anyway, as a tech-writer, I exist sort of between worlds without ever really stepping into any of them.  I report to a product manager, which is the biz-dev side of the house in many respects.  However, when I’m documenting, I’m physically going through the applications and finding bugs.  I provide bug-tickets from time to time and even give input in the overall workflow of the app (albeit rarely).  I work with dev in order to learn more about how the application works and how it’s configured, and I work with QA to learn how to actually make my way through the workflows and input data properly.

Today, however, I was working with our lead installer.  She on the road quite a bit, travelling from one customer site to the next and both installing and configuring our platforms to operate within customer environments.  She has a vested interest in the document I’ve been trying to finalize for about two months now.

Our application is straightforward to use but requires a bit of expertise to install.  She is currently training a new installer and has been jonesing for a viable installation document so she can significantly reduce the amount of hands-on time required to get him up to speed.

So we were talking about me finally getting to this document, and the subject came up of versions of our software (new release version of the currently deployed version) and when I mentioned that I would be including the new installation parameters, she became anxious.  From her perspective including those parameters meant expanding the existing documentation to include all the new functionality and workflows.  This would mean that it would be even longer for her to get a viable document to hand off.  She asked me straight up if I could hold off on digging into the new version.

Here’s where the politics of dancing comes into the picture.  Technically, I should simply delve into the new version and get that all done in one fell swoop.  However, contrary to many people in IT, I was trained (by the Jedi Master Sanjay Tiwary) that IT is a service industry no matter what role your in.  Far too many of my contemporaries simply do not understand this fundamental truth.

What I realized is that I will not be getting the new version to play with for at least a few weeks.  I’m literally a day or two from having a viable version of this document ready for internal prime time.  What that means is that I meet her business needs by completing the existing document, I segregate the installation parameters data out from the rest of the document as a stand-alone section at the end; and transition from this document to the next after this particular constituent is satisfied.  Then, in a few weeks, I import the new functions and flows from the new version and place them ahead of the installation parameters.  That way product manager is happy when he’s ready for prime time.

Now, the reason I’m telling you all this is because writing fiction is in some ways similar.  I have constituents, I have plot devices, I have sequels and characters, all of whom need to be balanced together and done in a proper sequence.  What I’m hoping is that in working hard to get the the proper sequencing, I end up meeting the reading needs of my real constituents, those people who will, over the years, buy my books.

Because, in the final analysis, this is all for you.

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