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Rethinking the Technical Publications Process

23rd September 2014 Posted in Blog, Documentation 2 Comments


The process of book publishing is clearly a group effort. The book may start with the author, but to get it from the author to the end reader means it also has to go through a number of specialists, like an editor, copy editor, book designer, typesetter, printer and others before it ever lands on a bookshelf. So why is the parallel process used to output technical publications primarily the responsibility of one person?

Longtime corporate publications specialist Alan Porter points out that the book trade is based on the premise that the artistic elements, the creation of the content and the design of the book are only individual components of an overall modular process, and that by treating those components separately, the business of publishing flourishes because the process is scalable and repeatable.

In his article, >Why Technical Publishing Shouldn’t Be Art, Porter explains how, by separating each of the technical publications processes into separate modules, each handled by a specialist with the applicable tools, just like the book industry, we can streamline and even automate the business of technical publishing. For example, those with the strongest design or layout skills would apply those talents consistently across all deliverables, instead of having each technical communicator design, author, edit, layout, proofread, publish, etc. It’s not only a more efficient model of delivering tech pubs, it would seem to provide the ability to improve the consistency and quality of final deliverables. It seems to make a lot of sense to us.

Read Why Technical Publishing Shouldn’t Be Art and then leave a comment here with your thoughts. Do you think technical publishing would benefit from the modular process Porter suggests? We’d love to hear your opinions.

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  1. By Ashleyon 24th, September 2014 at 9:11 am

    This is spot on. It’s a great thing when a company creates a process for utilizing its technical communicators to their strengths. It actually helps the team operate at maximum production efficiency. Sadly, in the corporate environment, it is often more cost-effective to employ TCs who can do it all.

  2. By WAI_editoron 24th, September 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Agreed, Ashley. But it seems like some compromises could be made. For example, someone who was really good with page layout might be given more of those tasks and fewer unrelated tasks, while someone who was very good at writing procedures could to more of that. As long as there are more than two in the group, there will always be a disparity in skills. Of course, the idea doesn’t work in a lone writer situation.

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