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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Project Management: The Next Logical Step

I don't know about you, but I've heard the job title known as "project manager" thrown around quite a bit. I also met a few project managers who were technical writers at one point.

What's interesting is that I've seen career maps for technical writers and one path is project management.

If you don't know what project management is, that's okay. I was in the same boat not too long ago as well. I'll try to explain what this job is the best I can.

My question is why do some technical writers become project managers? Is this a logical progression for those of us who've been in the documentation trenches for a while? I'm not sure. But I think I have a guess as to why this seems to happen.

Now before I give my hunch on why technical writers become project managers, let me explain what project management is.

According to Wikipedia, "project management is the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria."

In others words, you're doing everything possible to make sure a project gets properly executed. You might manage different people, such as technical writers, to make they do their part with the project.

You might coordinate with various teams to make sure they work together to move the project along.
If there are trouble spots or impediments with the project, you might need to make some adjustments anywhere from shifting people around to coming up with a new plan on how to execute a project. As a project manager, you're there to see the project through.

Now what does project management have to do with technical writing?

Believe it or not, project management is built into technical writing. As a technical writer, a document is like a project. We are responsible for doing everything possible to make sure a document gets published and goes out the door with the product or service.

We come up with plans on how to complete a document. We also create an outline of what the document would look like.

Project managers have to create plans on how to complete a project. They need to have a bird's eye of the project.

Do you see a parallel here?

We have to work with different SMEs to get different pieces of content for a document, especially if it involves multiple chapters or a team of developers or engineers. You have to coordinate to make sure who does what and when. When you work with SMEs, mostly likely you'll be working with their manager to coordinate the deadlines.

Again, with a project manager, they need to coordinate with different people, teams, and managers to do their part of the project.

Collaboration and coordination are inherit in both technical writing and project management.

And finally, we technical writers have to juggle multiple documents to make sure they go out at the right time and are done well. Project managers have to juggle multiple projects to make sure they're executed correctly and on time.

I could go and go on about the similarities between the two, but I think you get the picture.

So what's my guess? It's understandable why technical writers become project managers. They want better recognition and pay for what they have been doing all this time.

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