By Sai Kavitha K
Information Development is today going through a paradigm shift. Customers, channel partners, and support teams, expect a lot more than just producing the required documentation sets as part of release fulfilment. The technical writing community continues to be the catalyst that increases engagement with various stakeholders and promotes product effectiveness. The success mantra depends on how we understand the segment of consumers and promoters of the product such as marketing, sales, and support organizations.
Let us look at the typical scenarios that are causing this paradigm shift:
• Customer 1: I do not read several pages of documentation.
• Customer 2: I require content for only a task and not the entire documentation.
• Customer 3: Do you have an installation video?
• Support Engineer: I get several calls seeking help in scenario-based deployment.
• Support Engineer: The customer requires a technical solution for a specific problem statement.
• Support Engineer: Can writers create and manage wiki-based documentation support for customers?
So on and so forth. Are you constantly hearing these kinds of inputs?
Clearly, a gap exists in terms of the traditional customer-facing documentation and the need of a customer or support engineer to get specific information that helps solve a problem.
So, who can bridge this gap and how? The answer is —technical communicators can bridge the gap through effective collaboration.
Technical writers, along with editors, illustrators, instructional designers, and production specialists, are important, intelligent engines who build customer-oriented documentation through simple research techniques and focused collaboration. To build and manage effective collaboration, here are some focused efforts that we need to be make over a period of time:
• Build a collaborative ecosystem around you—We should work towards building an ecosystem to involve customer support and field engineers, inbound/outbound marketing, and training teams in the documentation development process.
• Increase Customer Focus—Make use of opportunities to increase our knowledge and understanding of customers through beta studies, channel partners, customer workshops, and surveys customized for select customers.
• Identify key stakeholders for reviews—Identify the stakeholders responsible for product development and ensure that these stakeholders are included and made accountable for critical documentation reviews.
• DITA for topic orientation in content—Building content through a topic-based approach and moving away from a traditional UI approach will provide specific information and communicate the power of the product to the audience (customers, field engineers, and support teams).
• Build exclusive scenarios for the product— A continuous focus to build scenario-based documentation adds value to the success of the product.
• Trends and analysis of product usage—Technical communicators should understand/identify top trends, analyze product usage through usability studies, and render videos for those trends.
About the author:
Sai Kavitha is an industry leading expert in the Information Development domain. She leads global documentation teams at Dell India R&D as Information Development Director. Her specialization includes setting up collaborative ecosystems to ensure enhanced customer experience for documentation through proven techniques like DITA treatment for content, beta studies, usability surveys, globalization impacts, and algorithmic approach to product usage. She can be reached at Kavitha_Sai@Dell.com