If you are considering the option of taking on a contractor to do your technical writing, we’d like to talk to you. Creating technical publications is involved and requires a fair amount of coordination. We take nothing for granted in the process.
Detailed plans, ready resources, good intentions…all these things mean nothing without a concrete plan and solid method for production. Analysis of past projects has led us to conclude that not every company can, or should, work with off-site contractors. The company-contractor interface only works when all parties understand the requirements, sign on to the ground rules, and abide by the agreements.
We’ve crunched through projects where the Program Manager had a crystal clear vision for success, but the subordinates just weren’t buyers. We’ve been involved in projects where contracts were signed but source data never materialized. We’ve seen fragmented chains of command where individuals in different states were given responsibility for reviewing and approving data, with no oversight. “Chain of Blame” is a game we don’t play. Fortunately, most disasters are apparent very early on, and contracts in the early stages of a project are easy enough to terminate with minimal impact. The good news, however, is that project failures are the exception, and that by following three simple rules we can almost guarantee a successful collaboration.
Rule Number One: You do the engineering.
You are the stake-holders, the engineers, the designers, and the approval authority. You wouldn’t be talking to us if ICAW was optional. You have a vested interest in putting manuals on the table, and you have the ultimate responsibility for the engineering side of manual development. You will need to provide us with a complete, accurate data set and keep us in the loop on design changes. We cannot write manuals without that level of support. The bottom line: when we have questions, you’ll need to provide answers; when we have requirements, you’ll need to plug those holes with data; when we deliver drafts, you’ll need to review and approve those documents.
Rule Number Two: We write the manuals.
We are the writers and illustrators who own the software, document design, language standards, and the production process for developing your technical publications. We have a vested interest in writing quality manuals. Our reputation and business depends on that. We know how to write manuals; we’ve been to this show before. But we’re not just the writers. With twenty years of aviation maintenance experience under the belt, we’re also your target audience. In the development process it’s our responsibility to advocate for the maintenance technicians and logistics professionals. We will produce the manuals the FAA and your customers require, and we’ll do that job in full cooperation with your team. At the end of the process you’ll have a manual set that meets your specifications and satisfies your customer’s needs for safe, effective maintenance manuals and logistical support for your products.
Rule Number Three: We both work for the customer.
Your customers count on you for product support. Inadequate support adversely affects not only your reputation but also your bottom line. No matter how good your engineering, no matter how innovative your products, poor execution in customer support will hurt you. Our business is the production of documentation that you need to certify your products and that your customers need to maintain your products. We're not the only technical writing company out there. If we miss the mark, someone else will step up. Rule Number Three states the obvious: We're both in the business of providing quality products and services to our customers.
Everything begins with the broad strokes. We'll need to establish the ground rules and set the scope for the project. We'll need to evaluate your detailed RFQ and read your project brief. The brief you give your FAA project engineer works for us. Once we understand the basic parameters of your project, we can advise you on our ability to handle the job. If we have the capability to do your work, and you are comfortable committing to us as your contract writers, we’ll sign NDAs. If your data is sensitive, we’ll do that prior to the brief.
Once we’ve established a confidential working relationship we’ll need to see your engineering data. The state of your data helps us to determine whether we can offer you a flat rate bid, or if a service contract is more appropriate for your project. When you accept our proposal, we’ll need to plug into your team structure. You will need to give us Points of Contact to answer our technical questions. We’ll need to establish an efficient data flow and agree on administrative requirements.
With data and points of contact in place we'll begin the process of task-based analysis to support your product. Your DER should have already discussed ICAW requirements with your PM, and that will be our first point of reference to begin the development of your manual set. We lay out the manuals based on our established templates, define your proprietary content, determine the graphics requirements, and study the OEM documentation. The Description and Operation section of the AMM is the first item on our list…if we can’t accurately describe your product, we can’t write your manuals, so the D&O section is critical to manual development.
Once your product is fully and accurately described in the AMM supplement, we start development on the AIPC supplement which describes and illustrates all the component parts of your product. This helps us visualize your product in the context of an aircraft installation. The better your data, the better the AIPC, the easier it is the develop the remaining AMM sections.
The final step in the development process is to write the procedures your customers will need to maintain your product in the field. You will need to verify and approve those procedures and your DER may want to look those over as well. With approved procedures in hand, we compile a final draft of the AMM, SRM, or CMM. When you’re done making changes to your drawings and part lists, we compile the final draft of the AIPC and write the indexes. When your invoices are up to date, we make the final changes to the front matter sections and send the final draft and a letter reverting the copyrights to you. From that point, manual maintenance is the only remaining issue. We write revisions and make changes to your released publications at a negotiable fixed hourly rate.