I’m writing this whilst it is still fairly fresh (and only addled by a couple, ok ok, three pints of Guinness)…
At the ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting last night talk turned to the fairly common topic of “no-one knows what we do”. There was some chat about the value we can bring but, frequently, documentation is still seen as a “tick in the box”, a necessary evil or, even worse, an apathetic acceptance even though no-one else in the company quite knows why we exist other than the fact that we do.
I had made a point earlier about selling ourselves, marketing our services and capabilities and once again it seems obvious that, and I acknowledge that I’m no better than anyone else in this respect, we must do a better job of raising our profiles as professionals within our organisation, and of the profession itself.
Talk of past redundancies confirms this, documentation can easily be seen as an expensive cost, something which, surely, could be cheaper to create or be created by cheaper individuals or perhaps be done away with altogether? After all, no-one reads the documentation and everyone can write, how hard could it be?
Alas we didn’t get to that during our discussions, but I have a few ideas. For starters, we need to:
- Identify champions, people within our organisation who understand the value we add to the product, and ask them for help.
- Confirm our main customers are getting what they need from us (what they really need, not just the tick-the-box documents they’ve always received).
- Communicate with our areas of the company more regularly so they know what we do
Nothing startlingly original there but one thing we all agreed on last night was that it was very easy to get into ‘head down’ mode, when you come into the office and work hard at to produce documentation, help systems, training guides, whitepapers, instructional videos, and more.
We need to, as a profession and as individuals, try to break out of those habits.
Yes, it’s hard, very hard in some situations, but most companies should be receptive to ideas which help make things better. It may be that your first port of call is to your boss to discuss why it would be a good idea to spend more time talking to the customers of your documentation, or it may be that another department is struggling and would welcome some helpful tips and a bit of direction.
We are professionals, and have much more to offer an organisation than information products alone. It’s just that sometimes we need to remind people of that, including ourselves.
Have you successfully conquered this? Do you indulge in PR and Marketing of your services, or the services of the team you are in? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this one.