November 29, 2009

Making the Transition to Agile

Filed under: Uncategorized — heratech @ 11:31 pm
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Ready Set Go When I first started thinking about making the transition to Agile, I decided that rather than focus on how different Agile was from my current workflow, that it might be less anxiety producing to focus on what I was already doing that seemed Agile.

I’d always been part of a cross-functional team that included (depending on the company) product managers, developers, QA testers, technical writers, support personnel, and training course developers. Although I was used to the teams meeting once a week for an hour, with Agile that would change to meeting daily for 15 minutes.

I already had experience working with skimpy product specifications. There is a great deal of variety in the quality of design and functional specifications that product managers write. I’ve never worked anywhere with what I thought were “extensive” specs, so this idea that a company could spent all their time defining requirements and never get around to writing code was alien to me. It seemed to me that one of the appeals of Agile for developers is that they’d get to write code instead of documentation.

I’d always written the documentation against the product, working through the UI in a development sandbox, not against the specs. So while I was worried about how I was going to estimate without specs, I wasn’t too worried about how I’d do the actual writing.

I liked the idea of a product backlog. Due to time constraints, there was always something that was getting cut at the last minute so that I could hit my deadlines. So I was already keeping a documentation backlog of topics to write or revise for the next release.

The whole concept of “done is done” seemed to require that the writing be broken down into small chunks. I was trained to do modular writing, breaking things down into topics of a page or less. And for the past couple of years I’ve adopted a watered down form of DITA, organizing my content into into Concept, Task, and Reference topics.

But when I started as an Agile writer, I had more questions than answers. And after a couple of months, I still have more questions than answers about how to be the most Agile writer that I can be.

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