Tag: Release Notes

Selling ourselves

Like many, I struggle at times with a common perception, one which was highlighted to me yesterday by a colleague.

Like most team leads/managers, I have a lot of tasks that aren’t purely focussed on the creation of information. I don’t do much technical writing, instead letting the guys in my team focus on that (they are better at it than me anyway) whilst I work around the edges of what they do, things like taking a document through a review with some SMEs and processing the output, or building a new output template, or proof reading some of their work.

My team and I have a good idea of what I do, even though I also get dragged into chats about other information related initiatives (document management systems being the latest). But as far as everyone else in the organisation goes, I am obviously not doing a good enough job communicating that out.

So my colleague was asking how my team were doing as we are approaching the last few weeks of this current release cycle. When I said that it was a bit tight and we were probably going to have to move some of the ‘could have’ information, he asked why and then asked what I was working on myself.

Thankfully, to answer his question I have a whiteboard directly behind me that holds all the ‘other’ stuff that technical writing teams need to think about; Product Glossary updates, creation of a Knowledge Centre, Release Notes and so on.

However the point here is that, whilst we all struggle to convey the importance of what we do (until people get to that “ahhhhh” point which most do eventually), it is in all our interests to evangelise our services. Yes this will only have direct impact within your current organisation but the ripple effect over the coming years will start to grow as people move on and take your messages with them.

It may mean that you, and your team, need to stand up in front of the whole company to ‘introduce’ themselves and what they do (same applies for lone writers!), as well as backing that up with updates and conversations with people you may not normally chat to, and I realise it’s probably not something that comes naturally to many people.

So to give you a kick start, as soon as I’ve finished it, I’ll be sharing a sanitised version of that very presentation. It’ll be focussed on a software company which is being re-introduced to that wee team they all know of, but don’t know much about. I hope it might be of some use.

What do YOU do?

Re-reading the article I submitted to the ISTC Communicator magazine, I realise that my average day isn’t:

  • particularly average at all
  • a true representation of everything I’m involved with

I lead a team of writers so my typical day may not apply to everyone, and I also have a tendency to stick my nose in and get involved in other areas if I feel I can be of help. Simply put, if I hear someone talking about “information” my radar pings and I see if I can be of any benefit.

Other non-typical items include collation of Product Release Notes, my team proof-read Marketing brochures and website collateral, we try and monitor consistency in the UI of our customer facing product, and I’m currently in the process of creating (and managing) and developer community website. As an “unbiased” member of the development group I also recently facilitated our retrospectives.

One of the reasons I love this profession is that you can (and should?) be involved in many different areas. We have a unique view of the product and I guess my day is sculpted by that, although it is helped that we are a small(ish) company and have a small group of people thinking about the “product” as a whole.

I’m lucky that our company doesn’t have a traditional structure, with everyone encouraged to talk to everyone else regardless of role or level. It’s a little like a zoo sometimes, with a lot of noise and activity, but apparently that’s a good thing. It does mean I am involved in discussions that can be hard to be a part of otherwise, chatting to the Product Manager, Product Marketing and Sales, all of whom are saying the same thing, which in itself proves that things are working and that technical writers are a valid part of that discussion.

I’m curious to hear if others have the same opportunity; What other areas, outside of technical writing, are you involved in? And why?