Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ERM-BC-COOP: RT*M is not the answer


I used to be a technical writer. Before that, I cobbled together PR and marketing pieces, and before that I was an honest newspaperman.

I just acquired a new Sony-Ericsson mobile phone to replace one from the same company that gave out shortly after the two-year contract expired. (Planned obsolescence?)

Although I was not a "happy camper" with either Sony-Ericsson or my mobile provider, AT&T, because I travel overseas, I have to have a service with international roaming. Cingular, acquired by AT&T, at the time was the only provider that had the required service. (Actually, I found out later Verizon - with which I then had service - also had international roaming, but the Verizon store clerk was ignorant.)

Anyway, being a lukewarm to AT&T/Sony-Ericsson, I went to Verizon to see if it wanted my business back. Apparently Verizon has enough customers and couldn't see its way clear to make a deal.

Which brings me back to AT&T/Sony-Ericsson and the point of this exercise.

Unlike some people, I DO RT*M (Read The [expletive deleted] Manual); every English-language page. I read it for my car; I read it for my computer. So, when I got the new phone (a W760a, if anyone cares), I read the manual.

It was like on-line help(less).

I had features in the old phone (a z520) that the newer unit apparently lacked.

Distinctive Ring. Not in the manual. It IS available with three in-the-phone tones (others can be downloaded PROVIDING the extra-cost Internet function is turned on). It took me two emails to Sony-Ericsson's tech support to get an answer. (Thanks, Anne.)

Sound Recorder: The manual tells me how to record a note or conversation, but fails to tell me how to delete a memory-hogging voice message.

Caller Voice ID: Like Distinctive Ring, it's there but it's not in the manual. Unlike the less sophisticated z520 unit, the W760a forces me to set up Voice Calling in order to have audible caller ID (e.g. when the Spouse calls, I hear "WIFE!").


BC Connection


The "business continuity" connection is that documentation needs to be complete and comprehensible.

It needs to be to-the-point and tightly organized.

There needs to be a pretty good Table of Contents and a VERY GOOD index.

Unlike a cell phone user guide (I suppose using the weasel-word "guide" means the authors can be casual about the contents), business continuity documentation has to be complete; there is no Help Desk or Online Helpless available to "fill in the blanks."

As a reader, I hate having to go from chapter to chapter or section to section to get a complete picture of what I need to accomplish. True, there are times when a back-reference is appropriate (e.g., when there is a 3-page instruction that applies to "n" different functions), but typically in business continuity documentation this is NOT the case; at least not in the recovery section of the document.

I'm not going to suggest that every business continuity practitioner must have a documentation background (although it helps), but I will flatly state that all business continuity documents must be prepared by competent writers and fully - and carefully - reviewed by both primary and alternate responders.

Indeed, an amanuensis is an asset even for a talented scrivener, and one lacking well-honed scribal skills most assuredly needs help.

The bottom line is that unless the documentation is useful - accurate, complete, comprehensible to the reader, well organized - no one will actually RT*M.

Which makes the documentation effort a waste of time and which, in the absence of frequent and realistic exercises, may make the entire business continuity effort a waste of time and resources.

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John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity practitioner
Ft. Lauderdale FL
Planner @




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