Cherryleaf will soon be publishing the results of their recent survey of Documentation Managers* and, having skimmed through a preview, the main thing that leaps out at me is that the field of Technical Communications in the UK remains as diverse as ever in many respects, yet completely the same in others, and none of that is a huge surprise.
Whilst we all may use different tools and approaches to our work, we all feel under the same constraints of time and resource. However the results do throw up a couple of issues and, as one of the participants of the survey, I thought I’d expand a little on one of those.
The survey hints at two issues:
- “The documentation teams generally continue to use authoring tools exclusive to the team … Content from 3rd parties, in most cases, needed to be … imported into the authoring system.”
- There was little evidence of any moves toward a company-wide approach to sharing and managing intellectual content.
I don’t think the first is a contentious statement but what interests me is the phrasing. The implication is that technical writing teams are seen as (or see themselves as?) content consumers, areas of the company into which content is lost to proprietary tooling. Obviously we publish a lot of content but perhaps we are a little too guarded of the information we collate?
I’ve never had an issue sharing information, regardless of state, as long as the appropriate caveats are in place. Information is meant to be shared, so the more of it we do, the better. In my opinion.
More interesting is the second point around the lack of evidence of company-wide information management. This is something I’ve been working on with key members of other areas of our company, and from previous experience it’s usually the technical writing team that takes a lead here as we gain the most benefit from having a good information management solution in place.
That may boil down to a document management system (from ad-hoc to access controlled repositories), or even a content management system, but ultimately the benefits are applicable across entire organisations. I’m lucky in that there are a couple of people who see the benefits and so it’s much easier to drive adoption and cooperation across the organisation, but even if that weren’t the case, and in the current climate, it may be something you should look into and start to drive forward yourself.
The survey results are, like any survey, a thin sample of our profession in the UK, but it’s great to have that information available. I’ve already spotted a few things that I can use in discussions within my own company, and there are plenty of common themes and ideas that can be carried forward to help improve our team.
So, well done Cherryleaf, I’m sure it wasn’t an easy process but I certainly think it was well worthwhile.
* A coverall title that encompasses anyone responsible for a team of technical writers.