November Chapter Meeting Enjoyed by All

Nearly 20 of us attended the chapter meeting last night at the Gaithersburg Hilton, which featured two useful presentations by accomplished speakers Annette Reilly and Carolyn Watt. Annette heads STC’s Standards Council and chairs the US ISO group (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC7 US TAG), which is meeting this week in Maryland to develop an international standard for user documentation in an agile environment, among other software and systems engineering standards. Agile itself does not have any applicable international standard but the ISO group is forging ahead with a standard for user documentation in an agile environment. Carolyn Watt is a member of the international standards group as well. STC WDC was honored to have guests from the ISO group from Japan, Canada, India, and Australia in attendance at the meeting.

Annette Reilly, who is also an STC Fellow, began the evening with a presentation about documentation in an agile environment. She explained that the ISO group is currently researching which issues the future standard needs to address. The future standard is likely to have recommendations for issues in managing, developing, reviewing, and testing user documentation on agile teams. Special concerns include working on “self-governing” teams, keeping documentation in synch with rapid development sprints, and working in environments where specifications and design documentation are not rigidly controlled. In these situations, user documentation developers can play a vital role in keeping the team on track. The new standard is also expected to contain a checklist for gaining information from developers.

Carolyn Watt of Carolyn Watt & Associates of Toronto, Ontario, an STC Associate Fellow, spoke next. She delivered an engaging presentation entitled “The Customer Experience, What Is It and Why Should I Care?” She gave each of us a handout with exercises to follow during her presentation and tips to take home. Her main point was that customers don’t remember what you do for them, they remember how you made them feel. The customer experience is the collective moments of contact that your customer has with you measured against their expectations. She asked each of us to recall a moment of contact that we have in our lives, and which emotion that contact evoked. She recommended that we think of the emotion we want others to have when we make contact with them. All of us have customers, even if we aren’t selling a tangible product. She introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which uses the percent of the three types of customers–promoters, passives, and detractors–to determine the health of a company.

All of this excellent content translated into an excellent value for attendees as well. For only $5 per chapter member, an amount subsidized heavily by the chapter’s bank account, or $20 per nonmember, the Gaithersburg Hilton served warm spinach and artichoke dip with pita and an antipasto platter, as well as coffee, hot tea, and iced tea. Members had a chance to network and learn something new. Value, indeed.

The next chapter meeting has not yet been scheduled. If you have an idea for a meeting or better yet, a free space the chapter can use to host it, please contact our chapter president, email hidden; JavaScript is required.

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I'm a technical communication consultant working primarily in the bioinformatics field and also designing and delivering training classes on 508 compliance for electronic documents. I have been involved with the STC Washington, DC - Baltimore chapter since 1994 and am an STC Fellow.