When the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper contacted me last month to do a “Hot Jobs” feature on a Novatek Technical Writer, I was thrilled! Technical writing is perceived by many manufacturers as a necessary evil and is often an afterthought that becomes a sudden, urgent need in the weeks before a new product launch. So highlighting the true value of the profession was a welcome opportunity.
The problem with the afterthought mentality is that not enough time is spent understanding the value of technical writing. With proper planning, manufacturers can learn how to leverage a technical communication firm's process and vast talent to accomplish their goals, without requiring their manager’s time and oversight. However, in the eleventh hour, finding a writer – fast, startlingly becomes more important than documentation results and usability. The result is a ready-and-willing technical writer with no direction, and thus requires handholding or is left to their own devices and ultimately misses the mark.
To ensure a return on your investment, it’s critical to plan. Write down your business, user, and financial level goals for your documentation. Write down your time, oversight, and process expectations. Meet with a handful of firms and individuals and evaluate them on the criteria necessary to meet your goals and expectations.
An invaluable technical writer will provide consultation on the approach, create a documentation plan, manage the process, and make recommendations to improve usability not only in the documentation, but the product and process, as well.
3 Ways Outsourced Technical Writing Firms Provide Invaluable Service to Your Company
1. Benchmarks based on real experience
Firms offering outsourced services have a variety of project experience with many different companies. This is beneficial to you because they can provide consultation on the opportunities and challenges of the new environment or new requirement you’ve been working so hard to learn. Ask any reputable professional services firm for benchmarks and they should easily be able to tell you:
- Average length of a typical project your size
- Average budget of a typical project with your requirements
- Potential opportunities to “wow” your audience
- Potential risks to your cycle time
- How other companies are approaching similar challenges
- What technical communication approaches are succeeding and failing in other environments
When writing documentation for a product or internal procedures, having a fresh perspective is invaluable. Certainly, industry knowledge and product knowledge are helpful, but consider the benefit of approaching the product like your customer would, or approaching the process like a new hire would. An objective point of view ensures:
- Steps are not inadvertently left out due to product or process knowledge assumptions
- Excess information thoroughly explained by the product expert, but unnecessary for the audience or purpose, is eliminated
- Confusing steps or product functions are identified by a new user and addressed before experienced by your customer
3. Focus on project not promotion
When outsourcing to a professional technical communications firm, you will be working with a technical writer eager to understand your need and complete your project, not looking for a foot in the door. At companies like Novatek, technical writers are already employed full-time, expect to work on a variety of projects, and have a supervisor that manages workload and performance expectations. The benefit to you is:
- More time getting down to business versus negotiating employment, attending orientations, and creating development plans
- More attention on the true need and technical documentation solution versus trying to make a name for oneself
- More focus on completing the job timely versus seeking a new opportunity within your company
For more on the value of outsourcing technical writing...