Write-up: PowerEdge R810 Hardware Owner’s Manual

Philip John and Sheena Lakshmi from the Dell team

PowerEdge R810 Hardware Owner’s Manual—The Award Winning Document at the 13th Annual STC India Conference Competition

The Product

Dell PowerEdge R810 is a high-density rack server that combines advanced management capabilities with leading price-per-performance features. This product was selected as one of the winners in the 49th Annual R&D 100 Awards for the year 2011, by the R&D Magazine. The award acknowledges the 100 most technologically significant products introduced in the market by a wide cross-section of industries.

The Hardware Owner’s Manual

The Hardware Owner’s Manual is a one-stop hub to access system hardware information, such as supported configurations, setup instructions, system servicing, error interpretation, firmware information, and troubleshooting procedures.

The Approach

A lot of collective effort went into the development of the Hardware Owner’s Manual involving the documentation and the product development teams. Some of the significant factors that helped in completing this manual successfully are:

  • Early start ― One of the key success factors for this effort was our early involvement with the development teams and consistent tracking of the product development effort. This gave us visibility into the larger picture as well as the nitty-gritty of the project.
  • Initial preparations ― The initial inputs were gathered from the engineering specifications document and the prototype of the server. Being part of the project update meetings and discussions also helped us understand the product better.
  • Early involvement of the editor ― The editor was involved early in the document development cycle, which benefitted the document development effort. Documentation aspects such as style, language, organization, readability, and usability were taken into consideration from the beginning.
  • Internal reviews ―  The initial draft, which included the preliminary illustrations and procedures, was refined to include the internal team’s ideas and error fixes. This helped the engineering team to concentrate on the technical aspects.
  • Continuous engagement with illustrators and the mechanical engineering team ― The writer worked in close coordination with the illustrators across the globe to develop the images for the assembling and dissembling procedures. In addition, the illustrators referred to the Pro-E files developed by the mechanical engineering team to ensure accuracy.
  • Focused engineering reviews ― Drafts of complicated features were sent to the relevant SMEs  ahead of the schedule to minimize churn during the formal reviews.

The Challenges

Challenges were aplenty and the documentation team went through an intense phase of content iterations with short turnaround times. The main factors that contributed to such a situation were:

  • Late changes in system features ― Major changes to hardware design and firmware updates deviating from the conceptual design had a cascading effect on multiple sections of the document. Analyzing the impact of the revised features within a shrinking timeline was a challenge.
  • Re-designing illustrations ― A lot of effort went into communicating the revised illustration requirements to the illustrators to accommodate the last minute changes. This required multiple iterations of the illustrations based on discussions between the writer and the illustrator.
  • Multiple opinions from multiple teams ― Opinions on the same feature from the product development team members at certain times stood as an impediment. These posed challenges to the documentation team while looking for the best alternative.

The Result

A document that is:

  • Technically accurate, comprehensive, and customer-friendly and scored high on readability and usability.
  • Recognized as the base for developing future customer documentation for products with similar complexities.
  • Capable of assisting marketing efforts to boost the product sales in an extremely competitive market.
  • One of the contributing factors in enhancing customer experience.


  1. Philip, Sheena,

    Congrats on winning the award for the PowerEdge R810 Hardware Owner’s Manual! Thanks for writing about the effort that went into the manual.

    It’d be interesting to know how you handled the challenges you’ve described: last-minute changes, revising illustrations, conflicting opinions from Dev team members. Could you provide some more insight into that?

    • Hi Kumar, Thank You.
      Answering your questions on mitigating the risks, the documentation project was well planned to include a bit of buffer to factor in for the unforeseen design changes that had an impact on the information already documented in the Hardware Owner’s Manual.

      Opinions of the documentation strategist and the team manager provided useful insights to address challenges. Multiple opinions on certain features were settled by involving the SMEs and core team members in calls, which helped us to reach to a consensus without losing on time. Extracts of the revised sections were sent to the specialists concerned, who verified the updates for technical accuracy.

      Photographs of the modified hardware components indicating the changes were used to help the illustrator understand the changes in the design. Illustration related comments were extracted separately from the document to help the illustrator save time without the need to skim through the entire document.
      These were some of the aspects that helped to meet the deadlines. Hope this answers your questions.

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