In this edition of Experts Ignite, we talk to Sandhya Ravishankar, who joined Citec Information in 2005 and currently works as Operations Manager. Sandhya has a special interest in modular documentation and has worked in DITA based modular documentation environments in varied domains like Telecom, Manufacturing, and Power & Automation.
Tell us about your experiences as an operations manager.
It has been an interesting journey these past 4 years, in my role as the primary point of contact for both internal and external customers of my organization. Citec Information India has grown from a predominantly Telecom & IT industry focused documentation company to an information management company, providing a wide variety of information services for diverse sectors like Energy, Manufacturing, Health care & Automation. Witnessing our growth in a steady and controlled manner in multiple industry segments with an enhanced service portfolio has been a fulfilling experience.
This role requires a bit of both, leading and following, in order to interpret Citec’s strategy for our Indian operations and translate them into everyday practice.
What difficulties did you face in Citec with such a large group in terms of work/ project? What is your day to day routine in terms of work?
Our challenge was to build teams for new domains with varied competencies and to maintain high quality, sustained service for a number of multinational customers in very diverse domains. So we have worked on our processes, competence development and systems. We are privileged to be part of a global organization which is at the cutting edge of Information management solutions. Selecting the right people and helping them develop their competence by training and working in complex documentation projects for global organizations has helped in overcoming in these challenges.
Day to day routine varies with the organizational needs at any given point. When we are building new teams, it means participating in team selection, induction, training and mentoring, and setting up project & customer interfaces. On an average I divide my time between customer relationship management, coaching, monitoring team performance, resourcing and a few administrative tasks.
What are a couple of challenges that you faced in Technical Writing and how did you address them?
One of the challenges in technical writing is to make the SMEs and the product managers understand the requirements of the end user. Convincing the SMEs to move from feature centric to task centric documentation is always a challenge.
Integrating the documentation life cycle with the product development life cycle is the other main challenge. This has a direct bearing on the quality of our deliverables.
These challenges are nothing new and typical to technical writing in general. In both cases, I believe this is an ongoing dialogue between the documentation and development teams. Constantly highlighting the value of usability in documentation goes a long way in ensuring that writing teams play an integral part in product development and help in creating highly usable documentation. There is no short term fix for these challenges and developing a rapport with development teams is a critical success factor.
How do you unify the two approaches between DITA and Wiki publishing? Share with us in brief any implementation process of publishing DITA Content to Wiki.
We are seeing an increase in the number of tools that combine the ease of Wiki-based collaborative authoring and the transformational capability of DITA based modular documentation. Citec has worked with customers to provide solutions that harness the power of DITA and the simplicity of Wiki based documentation.
One such approach would be to maintain customer documentation in DITA/XML, and export DITA topics to Wiki format for SME inputs, review and collaboration, where page templates containing a consistent “structure” can be set up to ease the transition of the content back to DITA. After language editing, only approved content can be pushed from the wiki to DITA/XML CMS, where the Technical Writer handles the publishing part. Working in wiki during the authoring phase can help in speeding up information gathering and technical reviews.
How do you see Technical Writing shaping up in the next five years?
These are very interesting times for the field of technical writing. With the increasing number of handheld computing devices and a younger target audience, the technical writing teams will need to gear up for collaborative authoring, managing newer and newer publishing formats and creating customized documentation that is tailored to individual users based on product configuration. Our traditional way of working has given way to a more dynamic and agile approach. As we gear up for the needs of the customer, our roles are changing and we will soon pay as much attention to managing content as we do to creating content.
Sandhya Ravishankar joined Citec Information in 2005 and currently works as Operations Manager. After completing her engineering in Electronics & Communication, Sandhya did a 4 year stint in a Telecom manufacturing company, before moving to technical documentation. Sandhya has a special interest in modular documentation and has worked in DITA based modular documentation environments in varied domains like Telecom, Manufacturing, and Power & Automation.