Freelance Writer, News and Opinions, Technology

Tech Writer Services White Paper

I may have mentioned that I started out my professional life as a Technical Writer, straight out of college. Below I would like to share a white paper that I wrote about what I did, as well as offering it from a technical proposal perspective.

The client has a proven record of providing superior Technical Writer services. The Writer is efficiently able to: communicate in written and verbal forms with technicians, project managers, leadership, and high-level customers. The Writer obtains and delivers accurate information in the production of artifacts and documents, as well as transforms technical jargon into fluid, organized, cohesive, and comprehensible documents. On daily basis, both in support of the Navy Blood program and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) Information Technology and Communication Services (ITACS) department, the Technical Writer confers with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and government leadership to produce required technical documentation.

The Technical Writer daily creates technical, procedural, and agreement documentation, such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Standard Installation Procedures (SIP), Interface Control Documents (ICD), Memorandums for Record (MFR), Operating Level Agreements (OLA), Memorandums of Agreement (MOA), Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), Configuration Management (CM) plans, inventory documents, information papers, briefings, governance documentation, policies, and procedures. The Writer utilizes knowledge of current information technology systems and services pertaining to directory services, enterprise management, server management, storage, backups, operational security, database administration, change management, issue escalation, application patching, updates, and application delivery to provide broad-based technical editing and writing skills used to identify and correct grammatical and formatting errors, ensuring documents conform to the appropriate template. To accomplish the above tasks, the Technical Writer keeps up to date with the knowledge of various document templates and style guides typically used with the management of information systems. The Writer utilizes various word processing and desktop publishing software applications to produce required technical documentation.

The Technical Writer is responsible for ensuring that documentation supports the Department of the Navy (DON) Records Management Program through:

•Managing records, regardless of their format, to assure proper preservation throughout their lifecycle as required by SECNAV M-5210.1
•Organizing and maintaining records in an orderly way that allows for the economical, efficient, and reliable filing and retrieval of those records, while complying with security requirements
•Supporting the disposition of records as directed by Records Manager or Records Officer, to include:
o When authorized, retiring records no longer required for daily business, legal and financial actions to local storage or a Federal Records Center
o As directed, transferring permanent records to the National Archives for preservation, reference, and research
o When authorized, promptly destroying temporary records per the established disposition and retention guidelines
•When directed, supporting the collection of records (permanent and temporary) for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other legal requests

In addition to the Technical Writer’s best practices, the government customer establishes their own requirements, which the Writer follows with precision. Some requests include, but are not limited to:

•Continuity in naming convention for directory and document titles: If the title contains the word “User,” Technical Writer will refer to this document as a “Guide.” In all other documents, where relevant, the document will be considered a Manual
•Document Filing and Updates: Final version of the document should reside in document file. Only the Technical Writer should be responsible for file versioning on deliverables and updates. SMEs can have a copy of the document to make updates, but only the Writer saves the final document
•Redacting PID and IP Addresses information on Screen Shots: All personal information (i.e., names, addresses, social security numbers as well as IP and MAC addresses) must be redacted. A simple black text box over the screen shot is enough.

The Technical Writer delivers the following best practices and serves in the roles, with following responsibilities:

•Creating the documentation schedule in terms of due dates, priorities, and content updates
•Determining priorities for the documentation deadlines, including unscheduled documentation
•Performing quality assurance before submitting documentation to the government liaison for review
•Reviewing and updating government documents that require revisions
•Updating configuration, change management, and continuity of operations documents
•Updating life-cycle process documents
•Updating existing system schedules weekly where applicable
•Updating System Security Authorization Agreement (SSAA) documentation
•Incorporating all SME technical comments into the documents for review and approval by the government customer
•Updating all system technical reference documents monthly
•Updating user manuals, training guides, and quick guides semi-annually, including network architecture diagrams
•Updating data description and operational flow diagrams monthly
•Updating test plans and creating additional plans
•Updating system interface control documents
•Revising all other system supporting documentation
•Tracking government customer requirements for documentation process updates
•Addressing and handling all inventory documents (i.e. Hardware and Software). Technical Writer completely sets up inventory and accounts for all property, to include microcomputers, peripheral equipment (including printers) according to Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) Equipment Management Guidelines. Technical Writer assists in assessing disestablished hardware from obsolete computer systems. The Writer maintains an inventory database and report for this task, available upon request

Technical Writer support involves establishing procedures for quarterly, ad-hoc, and existing documentation creation and updates. Most commonly performed, as it presently relates to the Navy Blood program, are quarterly and existing documentation updates. The best practices and processes are as follows:

1. The government customer determines the quarterly review documentation schedule with the Technical Writer
2. Once a set of documents is determined, the Technical Writer finalizes the list
3. The Technical Writer reviews the content and state of each document and then determines a SME review schedule of the quarter for each document. The Writer discusses the schedule with the team lead to determine if there are any potential conflicts. The team lead handles any priority conflicts
4. Once a schedule is determined, the Technical Writer sends out Outlook calendar requests to the appropriate SMEs for the first peer review meeting of each document
5. The Technical Writer provides initial formatting of each document and provides a hard copy of each document to the SMEs by the scheduled review date. The SMEs usually have a few days to review and update content, depending on the review schedule and the length of the document
6. The Technical Writer and the SME conduct a peer review and make changes collaboratively
7. Upon completing all updates, the Technical Writer finalizes the editing and formatting changes
8. The Technical Writer then performs quality assurance. If this document is part of the quarterly review schedule, the technical writer holds each submitted document until the end of the quarter, to account for potential further updates to the content
9. When the Technical Writer accepts the document, the document is sent to the government liaison for review. If the liaison requires more changes, the document goes back to the Technical Writer with a list of changes, who then edits and finalizes the document
10. When the government liaison accepts the document, the document goes to the government customer for review and approval. If the customer has changes, they submit the list and the document back down the chain of command to the government liaison, who then forwards it to the technical writer to make the changes to the version on SharePoint
11. When the government customer accepts the document, they provide notification to the government liaison and the Technical Writer that the document is approved

In conclusion, senior-level Technical Writer support proves to be invaluable within the Navy Blood program and the BUMED ITACS department. One of the recent milestones was the successful Technical Writer contribution to the annual IG inspection by collaborating with the team, organizing obtained information, and communicating the responses in writing to the ITACS Department Head. This example serves as one of the many achievements, demonstrating the vitality of the Technical Writer support.

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