Trends Article Mirrors Reader’s Experience


February 2000

Trends Article Mirrors Reader’s Experience


Hello Dr. Hackos,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to tell you I enjoyed your article in the January issue of Intercom and to let you know I believe you’ve really described what we’re experiencing at Great Plains well. Our organization is beginning to function very much like what you described in your Intercom article. To illustrate, here’s a short description of my team.

I manage the Great Plains Documentation Department in North America (24 people located in offices in Fargo, ND, Watertown, SD, Minneapolis, MN, and Seattle, WA). We also have a Product Development office in Oslo, Norway (one technical writer/translator), Manila (five technical writers), Toronto (one translator) and Germany (one translator) with dotted-line reporting relationships into my team.

I have four team leaders reporting to me (one a telecommuter in Lincoln, NE) and the rest of the writers and editors report to them. We ship documentation in Print, PDF, WinHelp, and HTML Help (all our e-business applications are in HTML Help). We’re moving all our documentation into a FrameMaker-based single-source system. One of our technical writers from the Watertown, SD, office (Patty Ewy) will be demonstrating this system and how it’s being used to create documentation for our Manufacturing product line in the Peer Showcase at the WinWriters.

Writers get involved with projects at the requirements phase, contribute to the UI design, and are included in all levels of meetings (from cross-functional project teams like those adding enhancements to our Purchase Order Processing module, to Program-level releases of all product lines-we must ship them close to simultaneously as they share a common database of financial data).

To move our documentation forward in a consistent manner across all product lines, we’ve created the position of “Documentation Architect.” The Lincoln-based team leader functions as our “Documentation Architect” in addition to leading the Human Resources and Manufacturing documentation team. She’s responsible for researching new models, usability testing them, and recommending next generation documentation changes. She’s part of the team designing our next generation UI and is responsible for both contributing to the evolution of the product UI as well as determining how the documentation components fit into the UI.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your article in Intercom, your book, Managing Documentation Projects, and your sessions at WinWriters in the past. I also thought you might find our company and department interesting and another example of what you’re describing taking place in our industry.

In case you’re not familiar with Great Plains, I included some information below. It’s been a great place to work these past 15 years. When I started in 1984, we had only 40 employees. Great Plains delivers integrated front office/back office and e-business solutions for the midmarket. Great Plains offers e-business applications for financials, distribution, enterprise reporting, project accounting, electronic commerce, human resource management, manufacturing, sales and marketing management, and customer service and support. Great Plains’ solutions are sold and implemented by a unique worldwide network of independent partner organizations that share the company’s commitment to lasting customer relationships.

Named three times to the “Top 100 Companies to Work for in America” list, Great Plains has more than 1,100 team members worldwide. More information about Great Plains can be found at

Thanks again for the excellent article and all you do to advance the field of Technical Communication. CIDMIconNewsletter

Tom DesSaint
Global Documentation Team Manager
Great Plains