Category: Intercom

Articles published in Intercom — the magazine of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) — related to policies and procedures. These may be available in the STC Intercom archives (, via online search, or by contacting the authors.

Writing Procedures

Intercom-November 2005; By Deborah K. Lockwood; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article provides basic instructions to technical communicators for developing policies and procedures from scratch. It provides definitions and examples for the terms policy and procedure. It presents techniques for establishing a clear writing roadmap such as using flowcharts or diagrams. Defines Playscript format and details how this format is used for writing procedures. Provides suggestions for establishing style guidelines, choosing numbering sequences, and organizing the procedures.

SOPs and the Technical Writer

Intercom-April 2003; By Mark Edelman; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article provides a thorough method for writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It begins with a clear definition of what SOPs are and what they should not be and takes the reader through the structure, the research, authorship, management, professional matters, and concludes stating that writing SOPs is one way for companies to excel. It explains in detail the elements that should be included in the creation of SOPs such as front matter, purpose, scope, definitions, roles and responsibilities, etc. Equally detailed is the list of recommendations for dealing with authorship issues, which writers of SOPs may have to face; the list includes minimizing cross references, using consistent language, testing procedures, etc. The article stresses the importance of managing the sets of SOPs written to achieve quality, and warns the writers to beware of organizational changes as the worst enemy of documented SOPs.

Building an Electronic Documentation Repository

Intercom-April 2005; By Barbara Block; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article presents a model for creating a documentation database that provides easy access to its users and a self marketing tool for the technical writer. It describes the three reasons for building a repository: building a showcase for the work produced, developing creative talent, and providing easy access of procedures for its users. The article provides insight as to the major milestones for building the repository: creating the database, designing the front end, and linking the database to the front end.

Creating “Living” Policies and Procedures

Intercom-November 2005; By Geoffrey J. S. Hart; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article states that policies and procedures goals found in dusty old binders were created to enshrine best practices or to evaluate employees. The author explains that these policies and procedures would not be valuable unless they are effective in supporting the employees to achieve the goals of the organization. The author supports best practices, consistency, training, and compliance as goals for writing policies and procedures; but in addition, the author explains the reasons why policies and procedures must react immediately to business changes, thus arising the need to create living policies and procedures.

A Cautionary Tale

Intercom-November 2005; By Sheila C. Jones; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article narrates the story of a tragic accident that could have been prevented if policies and procedures could have been properly communicated to the workers. It also asks P&P writers to take responsibility for adding value to the document by going beyond the job that is requested.

Transforming Tribal Knowledge into Written Instructions

Intercom-April 2006; By Bradford R. Connaster; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article presents Sequence as software, which a technical writer may use to convert Tribal Knowledge into written procedures in a few days; it defines the industry term Tribal Knowledge and explains the reasons why businesses should convert this knowledge into written documentation. The article lists and explains the mechanical and writing skills required to convert Tribal Knowledge into written procedures; it also advices on a set of requirements to set up a project using software and photography equipment to document procedures. The author details the equipment set up and provides a lot of insight into the features of Sequence including some of its pitfalls.

Techniques for Successful SME Interviews

Intercom-March 2000; By Jennifer L. Lambe; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article acknowledges the various techniques for gathering information, but it provides techniques for conducting successful interview with subject matter experts (SMEs). The article notes that SMEs may have various degrees of communication skills and therefore, it is the writer’s (interviewer’s) job to get prepared to optimize the results of the interview. It provides steps that should be taken prior, during, and after the interview. The steps prior to the interview include defining objectives, preparing for the meeting, and being punctual. The steps for during the interview include using active listening skills, asking open-ended questions, politely controlling the interview, repeating information to ensure understanding, identifying gaps, being accurate, organizing the information, and making no promises. The steps for closing the interview include thanking the SMEs, asking permission to follow up, reviewing notes immediately after the interview.

Documentation Project Management Resources

Intercom-June 2006; By Brenda Huettner; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article describes the twelve basic areas for managing a documentation project that must be included in the new set of standards dictated by ISO requirements. These areas include: roles and job descriptions, process, plan content, suite design, review and testing, configuration management, audience and task analysis, software and systems engineering life cycle, estimation, work br /eakdown structure, and quality metrics. The article cites several resources available for learning to manage documentation projects.

Capability Maturity Model Integration: Technical Writers Needed

Intercom-November 2005; By Faye Newsham; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article explains in detail the reasons for increasing productivity and revenue by using Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). It defines Maturity and its five levels of maturity. It indicates how companies can obtain CMMI certification. It elaborates on the benefits of building a Process Assets Libr /ary. It enumerates the various reasons why the implementation of CMMI in a company will need a technical writer. Finally, the article provides suggestions on how to get involved to get started working with CMMI.

Policies and Procedures – Opportunities Await Technical Communicators

Intercom-November 2005; By Raymond E. Urgo; Summary by Maria Christophel (2006) This article discusses the various opportunities that await technical communicators in the world. It explains the reasons policies and procedures documentation is awakening interest in the business community. It provides a clear hierarchy of talents and skills required to achieve a career in policies and procedures documentation.