Advisory Council Member: Diane Davis
Diane Davis is the Senior Technical Publications Manager for the Design Tools Group at Synopsys, an electronic design automation company. Diane holds a B.A. in English from Carnegie-Mellon and an M.A. in Education from Glassboro State College. She has a certificate in Managing Technical Publications from the University of Santa Cruz Extension. After an initial career as an educator, Diane entered the technical publications field as a writer at Applied Materials, a Fortune 1000 company and the leader in front-end semiconductor equipment. From 1984 to 1988 she wrote end-user manuals about semiconductor etchers and worked closely with engineers to develop hardware reference manuals and spare parts identifiers.
In 1988 Diane joined the voice-processing company Octel Communications as a senior technical writer, responsible for all service documentation. As a one-person department, she developed procedures to ensure that field service engineers received materials on a regular schedule, and she established effective relationships with vendors for printing and distribution. In 1989 a service manual that she wrote for Octel won the Best of Hardware Reference Manuals award in the Northern California Technical Publications Competition. She also created a style guide for the department, which her staff later updated and refined. In 1991 the Octel Style Guide for Technical Publications earned an award for distinguished technical communications at STC’s international technical publications competition. While at Octel, Diane taught regular classes in continual process improvement and received several awards for excellence as a quality improvement trainer.
Currently, Diane manages a staff of 20 writers, editors, and production specialists at Synopsys. Because Diane’s highest priority is to identify and meet the needs of Synopsys customers, she initially interviewed internal and external customers to discover the most effective way to improve the quality of documentation. In response to requests to improve the quality of content, Diane has established processes to minimize production time and allow writers more time to write.
Customers also emphasized that they wanted documentation available in a variety of media. Although Synopsys has provided an online version of its documentation for years, this online version was not available on the World Wide Web. Some customers said they wanted documentation available on the Web; others wanted documentation in book form. By coordinating with other Synopsys organizations, Diane has been successful in ensuring that all the documentation produced by her department is available on the Web. Synopsys customers can also use the Web to order paper copies of the documentation.
As a result of ongoing assessment of customer needs, as well as research in state-of-the-art technology, Diane has defined a goal for her department of providing documentation tailored interactively to meet individual customer needs. To reach this goal, Diane and her staff are currently moving into a Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) environment, using a phased approach to avoid disrupting the production process.
During phase 1, her information architect developed a complete and tested SGML application. During phase 2, five writers and several managers received SGML training. The writers converted books into FrameMaker+SGML and tested the application. Then, based on feedback from the writers, the application was enhanced.
At this point, all the department’s writers have received SGML training and all documents have been converted. Diane and her staff are establishing an information management system in a single-source environment. It is an exciting time as they develop the capability to deliver documentation in multiple formats through multiple channels.