Can this specific technique help you protect your investment?
CONTENTS (this page):
1. Are you losing your investment money like this?
Imagine that you're an investor. You pump $millions into a start-up company. Then, you discover that the expensive engineers and management that started the company have written practically no documentation for your products and company.
How about a system that will solve the problem and protect your investment?
2. The Problem
I've seen this "no-doc" problem happen repeatedly for decades. For example, back in October 1997...
... I see an ad in the Sunday paper for a start-up semiconductor manufacturing company. (I love working with start-ups.)
Monday. I call the company to see whom I might talk to about documentation. The receptionist refers me to the VP of Engineering. He's a Physics Ph.D. from a prestige university. He seems reluctant to talk to me, but tells me that the specifications for their new semiconductor wafer system aren't yet written.
He says it is "too early to start documenting" their new system. Still, I offer to come over for a free Needs Analysis and to see whether I could assist with the situation. He continues, "Only a semiconductor manufacturing engineer could write our specs." But somehow, I manage to get him to set a brief appointment on Thursday.
Thursday. I meet briefly with the VP, who then introduces me to a couple of R&D engineers and leaves the conference room.
I discover that the engineers are improvising designs "on the fly" (based largely on tribal knowledge and capricious management dictates). The give me a tour of their Research Lab where I learn that lab procedures are undocumented.
During our discussion, I point out the kinds of problems I have seen when start-ups don't document their work, such as:
Many companies lose not only their technology but the money they spent to develop that technology. Why? Because their technology walks out the door when employees leave ... thus, without those particular employees and what only they knew - they are disorganized, literally out-of-business and don't even know it!
And, since much too little of that technology is organized and written down - nobody can pick up the ball when people left.
Without product documentation, standards and procedures (and technical processes and strategic plans, etc) - without adequate documentation - they are faced with "re-inventing the wheel!"
They agree, but tell me they don't have time to write. They had a "writer" who quit after a month &endash; which is why they are skeptical of me. I show them examples of my work with start-ups and answer their questions. I show them how I can save them a lot of work (and I'm SURE they don't want to do the writing).
They tell me they'll put in a good word for me with the VP.
3. The Solution
Friday... The VP calls to see if I can start on the project next week.
I begin interviewing engineers and programmers to collect information for the specs on their Single Wafer Epitaxial System. (Thankfully, these people know their stuff and are very happy to have someone else write their specs.)
Quickly, I discover a giant mess in their physical and computer files. I must either spend hours hunting down all this scattered information -- or start over. But, with their assistance, we're able to piece together much of the previous work.
To help prevent these problems in the future, I design and publish an organizational strategy for their computer files and physical files. I also find that those specs and work instructions that do exist are not in a standard format. So, I create some ISO 9000 templates for specifications and work instructions.
It is no surprise to discover that they have no system for managing engineering change orders (ECOs). Thus, every ECO is handled as a special case. In my spare time, I work with the new Document Control Manager to flowchart ECO procedures with step-by-step work instructions. To enhance this effort, I write specific instructions for releasing R&D documentation.
All this other work was interleaved with developing the System Specifications.
4. The Results
Less than 90 Days Later... The following documentation was delivered:
System Specifications for their Single Wafer Epitaxial System containing the following sections:
ISO 9000 Templates for specifications and work instructions.
Detailed Organizational Strategy for computer files and physical files.
ECO Procedures Flowcharts and detailed instructions for releasing R&D Documentation, including :
But, best of all, the investors investment in proprietary technology is protected. They don't have to worry about being left in the lurch when employees leave. (Silicon Valley is very incestuous.) They now have documented specifications, standards and procedures, and no longer have to worry about "re-inventing the wheel!"
It all began with an Idea worth working for.
Businesses don't work by themselves; people work. And the thing that makes people work is AN IDEA WORTH WORKING FOR. To find out more about our documentation service click this link to Frequently Asked Questions.
(c) 2004 Mike Hayden
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