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How Technical Writers Fit into Business

3rd July 2012 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Technical Writers 5 Comments

Image for Technical Writing Impact on Business

The image of a technical writer behind a computer is not entirely inaccurate, but their ability to impact a company is often overlooked.  Someone who is able to take technical information and turn it into a highly useful document can help in a variety of ways within organizations who want to create successful outcomes.

A technical writer can help with:

  • Strategic planning
  • Documentation
  • Webinars and meetings
  • Training sessions
  • Quality assurance
  • Product development
  • Marketing materials
  • Web content

And more…

While technical writers may not hold a role in different departments (or have fancy titles), their work helps to inform what happens next in a company.  Think about this: a technical writer creates a document that trains new employees.  With accurate job process details, the employee performs well, helping to boost efficiency and quality.  When employees are efficient, the company can make more products or provide more services in less time.  As a result, the strategic planning for the future of the company changes.  And when the company starts to change, the documentation may need to change, starting the cycle again.

It’s clear that a user document is more than just a static piece of paper or heavy binder.  These organized details become the backbone of how business gets done and how companies grow successfully.

Before you think of a technical writer as just another person behind a computer, perhaps it’s time for another look into what aspects of business their work influences.

What aspects of business have you seen technical writers influence positively? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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  1. By Vishnuon 3rd, July 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Most of the outsourced projects do not leave any chance for technical writers to involve in the activities mentioned. Even if a tech writer volunteers, the result is stiff opposition.All these will work in an environment that offers flexibility.

  2. By Whitney Bridgeson 4th, July 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Vishnu, I understand your frustration in limited control over the flow of a project. However, there are always ways to assert your value to the project/product development.

    Using project management software to outline the schedule and tasks that are dependent on others’ input or concurrence can be very helpful. PMs are accustomed to viewing schedules in this format (MS Project being the most popular) to interpret your accomplishments as well as any setbacks on tasks that are not completed or major milestones not met due to lack of feedback or decision.

    If you have regularly scheduled meetings to discuss the project, come prepared with your schedule and be able to quickly identify accomplishments, setbacks and courses of action that may be taken to get back on track.

    Project Managers are driven to perform in three areas: cost, schedule and performance. When you present clear data that outlines how your part of the project may impact any of those key areas, you can typically expect some action on their end to motivate those who are holding you up.

    I have also found it helpful to nudge team members who are not delivering on time by giving them a 24hr heads up that I am presenting the schedule at the meeting. That gives them the chance to respond with an estimated delivery date for the lagging task that can be communicated at the meeting, eliminating the potential for your co-worker/industry partner to be called out or put on the spot in front of a large group.

    In response to the original post – Yes. Technical writers do have an impact on the bottom line. If we meet a schedule, the company does not lose money on projected man-hour costs, or rush printing/delivery services. Remember that your piece of the puzzle was spec’d out before the project even began.

    You may also wish to talk with the PM when a project is in the close-out phase to ask “how did we perform in relation to what we expected to spend on the project.” This can initiate dialogue on how to better spec the costs for upcoming projects. If you PM views you as both task and project-focused, they may tap you for input on cost and schedule assessments going forward. In doinf so, you can be assured they value your contribution and how your efforts effect the bottom line.

  3. By Andy Pickeringon 9th, July 2012 at 7:58 am

    Technical writers are often in a unique position in a company to have an overview of many aspects of the company’s activities. This allows them to see synergies within an organisation that are often overlooked by people involved in only one aspect of the product. This can be particularly true when it relates to things dealt with at the systems or macro level, such as product safety, integration with other products etc.

  4. By editoron 9th, July 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Andy, thanks for your comment. I’d have to agree 100%.

  5. By Linus Magnussonon 7th, September 2012 at 12:23 pm

    The technical writer as an individual is one thing. The technical information professional (or practioneer) is another. Technical information has the potential to drive business, and as a professional in this area one would of course be a part of that.

    Example: An Elevator Maintenance Engineer performs a yearly check on a OTIS/ThyssenKrupp/other brand-elevator. To assist him in this, he use a OTIS/ThyssenKrupp/other brand maintenance-app in his Ipad, that tells him what to check (using animations, interactive functionality, etc) and also allows him document his work, filling out and storing the service report online, etc. As he performs these checks, he notice that the motor over-heating protection switch needs to be replaced. He then takes a picture of the switch with his Ipad, points to the switch on the picture on the iPad-screen and choose from the options menu that appears to first place an online order for a new switch, and then to schedule the replaceing of the switch as his calendar automatically suggests a couple of dates depending on among other things the delivery time of the switch.

    When it is easy to first identify and then order a new spare part, spare parts are ordered. When the information one needs is available when one needs it, it drives business. As a technical information professional, I am trying hard to make this scenario come true. I want to be able to say that I am a part of something that drives business.

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