For large projects, we'll typically assign a particular tech writer to that project as a "liaison." The liaison’s job is to ensure that we get complete, consistent, and timely docs.
Not every project gets a liaisonship! For smaller projects, we'll encourage teams to edit the docs directly, and then have the hero review their changes. And a smallish project may not need a full liaison—a single ticket might be enough to manage the work.
To figure out which type of support is best for a given project, one of the managers on the team will have a scoping conversation with a subject matter expert. Here's a few reasons a project might get a dedicated liaison:
- Project is complex and would benefit from intimate familiarity with the feature.
- Project requires significant information architecture work.
- Project will produce enough docs that consistency across those docs will be hard to achieve without a centralized editor.
- Project SMEs would benefit from a consistent "face" of the tech writing team.
However, a liaison is not the only author on a project. Liaisons should structure their work to maximize swarming and knowledge sharing.
Learn new thing exists
Ideally the Hero or a Tech Docs manager gets notified directly by a PM about a new project. But sometimes we'll find out about something unexpectedly. If you're not sure whether we have a writer working on something, ask a manager on the team and they'll reach out to the subject matter expert to scope it.
Have a scoping meeting
Tech Docs manager
The manager is responsible for tracking the general state of major projects across the company, and is generally the first point of contact for new projects.
When a large new project comes up, the manager will do a pre-scope meeting with the requestor. (Appendix: Project scoping cheatsheet has a list of common questions for this pre-scope meeting.) That conversation helps figure out timeline, complexity, key docs considerations, and which writer will be a good fit as liaison.
Assign a liaison
Tech Docs manager
Once we know we need a liaison, a manager on our team will figure out who to assign. Some of the factors we use to decide who to assign include bandwidth, familiarity with the product or feature, career goals and writing strengths, and simple interest in the topic.
Keep track of project dates
The managers on the team keep track of upcoming projects that don't have a liaison assigned. Once a writer gets involved, that liaison keeps track of the specifics of dates: Betas, limited releases, GAs, fast-follows, and so on.
Your manager's always here to help out if you're getting blocked or dates are shifting too rapidly to plan properly.
Validate the docs plan with the project team
The liaison works with their stakeholders to define the information architecture and deliverables.
Since the liaison defines the information architecture, the liaison will know what kinds of deliverables we need. The liaison also acts as an advocate for their tickets in the backlog grooming and sprint planning processes, and ensures their stories meet the story quality requirements. The liaison should also ensure that our partner teams have appropriate tickets in their backlogs for their work.
Remove blockers (such as reviewer delay)
Liaison + Manager
While the liaison is primarily responsible for handling SME relationships and removing day-to-day blockers, your manager is here to help unstick things anytime you need help.
Wrap up the liaisonship
Liaisonships are not forever assignments! When the bulk of your work on a project is complete, it might be time to consider ending the liaisonship. Reach out to your manager to talk about it. When you end it, let stakeholders know and update the liaison roster. Also let your stakeholders know they can always ping the docs hero for help or if they have a new project.
Develop a deep expertise on feature and audience.
Become the Docs Team's local expert on the feature. Understand what it does, what problems it solves, and the implications for our content.
Educate the team on the feature
Part of your responsibility as liaison is to share expertise around the team. That helps with swarming, but it also makes for better hero review and a smarter team that can write more intelligently about the entire New Relic One platform.
Coordinate with design and/or research and test your docs
Reach out to the designer and/or researcher for the project, and periodically sync on any shared concerns, user needs, etc. And you should advocate for user testing and validation of your content.
Define the information architecture
As liaison, you're the expert on both the feature the product team is building, and the docs content (new and existing) that will support that feature. Build an IA that will meet all project needs and scale to the future.
The liaison writes much of the content for their project, especially the conceptual content like intro docs. But the whole team is expected to swarm and contribute to large projects, with the liaison coordinating that work.
Peer edit drafts
When we swarm and have someone else contribute to the project, the liaison peer edits their drafts to ensure consistency with the overall vision.
When the time comes to release (whether that's beta, GA, limited release, or EoL), it's the liaison's job to coordinate with PM, Eng, and Product Marketing to ensure docs go out on time with other deliverables.
We welcome thoughts or questions on our handbook! The easiest way to get in touch is to file a GitHub issue.