Simple guidelines for running technical document reviews remotely

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With some clear expectations and a little planning upfront, running remote writing and document review projects can go smoothlyHere are some lessons I learned when I was a freelancer about running remote writing and editing projects:

  • Set expectations for review comments. When I was freelancing in computer book publishing, each publisher had in-house reviewing and editing guidelines for technical reviewers like me to follow. In the past, I’ve worked with clients to set up and formalize technical document review processes.
  • Set expectations for communications. By my nature, I am a very responsive person but I can’t speak for everybody. One way to get past this is to set up an informal communications plan to include email or phone call check-ins. Another thing not to forget is for everybody to on the project to have each other’s contact information including email, IM, Skype, and mobile phone.
  • Set deadlines and project milestones. While this sounds basic, some organizations don’t set firm deadlines for documents. With set deadlines and milestones, the remote writer and the in-house team each can have peace of mind that dates are being hit and project communications aren’t stacking up in the other person’s Outlook inbox.
  • Remember email, deliverables, and review comments are your “face”. Remote writers, editors, and technical reviewers should always remember that their work is their first impression on the people who receive them. Your comments and edits need to stand on their own. Spend the extra time to craft comments that are clear, concise, and diplomatic.
  • Place documents online even if you work through email. While collaboration tools are ideal for remote working, some organizations are reluctant to implement them for such purposes. Even if you are working remotely through email, it is always wise to have your files online and available for access. Hurricane Irene and last year’s Snowmageddon with their power and cable broadband outages are prime examples of why putting project documents online is a good thing. With free and fee-based services like Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive now available there are fewer excuses for power or connectivity outages on one side delaying the entire project.
  • Use track changes and comments. Both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat include robust editing and reviewing tools that enable you to review and edit documents online without the need of printing documents out. It means no more marking documents up, and then scanning them into PDF for emailing to the next team member. The best part is that these tools make it easy for writers to work through the changes and if need be to make comments back asking for further clarifications on the edit.
It comes down to putting down just enough structure to give reviewers to get the job done independently.
How do you manage technical document reviews?

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