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Frequent questions, quickly answered.

Technical documents

For technical documents, signed client approval and review by other stakeholders are generally required at the outset of planning. Where the project is approved, and again at the end of the project.

However, at each deliverable stage, especially for the end of each draft, a technical expert might review and endorse the writer’s or graphic artist’s work. Confirmation is also needed that recommended changes are included in the next draft.

The final draft

By the final draft, expert review of the document is needed. It is also wise at this stage to test the document with a review by eventual users. These are the people to whom clear usability of the document is essential. Then, when agreement is reached or the work is ready to be passed from developer to client, someone in authority needs to sign on the dotted line for reproduction.

A document can be reviewed, agreed with and approved on-screen. A typical example is an end-user-license agreement (ULA). Where terms of the agreement are displayed, and nothing more can happen until the user clicks ‘I agree’ to confirm a contract with the software developer.

Similarly approval of technical documents can be done using secure technology, such as digital certificates, to ensure that a signature is authentic and not copied by another person from another source. (A signature that has been scanned from a paper document and included in an electronic document is not a legal signature).

A sign-off consent form might sensibly include the following elements:
    • A title, saying what it is that you want the client or executive to approve (a design plan, a form, a template etc).
    • A reference to the role this document will play in an over-all project or system.
    • A description of what is being agreed to including a description of what has been reviewed.
    • An explanation of how any later changes to the documentation may be handled after the form has been signed.
    • In cases where work has been done under contract, especially for an agreed-to deliverable, permission to issue an invoice might also be included.
    • Space for signing and dating.
Each of the following stakeholders, for instance, may approve the design and planned use of technical documents.
    • Business units may have requirements that depend on the content and accessibility of all documentation.
    • Administration may need to ensure that documentation management will comply with external and internal constraints, such as ISO 9000 Quality Standards.
    • The IT group may be obliged to support and maintain digital documentation, storage, hardware and programs, communications, and compatibility within existing systems.
    • Audit and accounting staff may need to ensure that documentation accommodates organisational financial policies and obligations.
    • Legal counsel may review documents for legal consequences and contractual implications.

Sign-off makes certain people accountable for the completion of various stages. Those with authority to sign can be accountable for the cost of documentation and its quality and integrity, or both. It is the client who decides when the work is completed and functional.

Obtaining formal sign-off is important because it signifies the official end of a project or completion of a deliverable and the acceptance of the product by the customer (internal or external). While the process is not a complicated one, it is an essential step in ensuring customer satisfaction.

The project sponsor’s sign-off indicates satisfaction with the deliverable and intent to pay any remaining portions of the project payment schedule as described in the initiating documents. Hidden problems with the deliverable may void this agreement or limit the amount the customer must pay.

The final sign-off on technical documentation is often a crucial stage in the completion of IT projects. When documentation is signed off it ensures that:
  • the original specifications and requirements criteria for documentation are being met.
  • there is formal acceptance, in writing, that the client, project manager or sponsor have accepted the documents are complete and accurate.
  • work by outside contractors or suppliers is formally accepted (and paid for).
  • documents are authorised for final production and distribution.

The final decision to sign-off comes from the client. But the client will often need to listen to other people within an organisation, including those who steer the organisation, who pay the bills, the users and any experts who have contributed to documentation.

Sign-off Work:

Client sign-off can occur for various points in the design and production of documentation. Sign-off makes certain people accountable for the completion of various stages. Those with authority to sign can be accountable for the cost of documentation and its quality and integrity, or both. It is the client who decides when the work is completed and functional.

Acceptance is based upon the success criteria defined in the very early initiating and planning stages of the work. Sign-off therefore also helps to define and structure the stages of development and production.

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